Migraines are intense headaches that can be debilitating for those who suffer from them. While the exact cause of migraines is not known, there are a number of known triggers that can bring on the overwhelming pain. One of these triggers is exposure to changes in high altitudes, which can make some people more prone to experiencing migraines. In recent years, researchers have been working to understand the connection between altitude changes and migraine onset.

The scientific community has long known that climate change and high altitudes can affect health in a variety of ways. While it is common knowledge that higher altitudes can lead to nausea, headaches, and fatigue, the relationship between altitude and migraines was not fully understood until relatively recently. Studies published in the last decade have pointed to a link between high altitude and an increased risk of migraines for some individuals.

How Altitude Affects the Body

To understand the connection between altitude and migraine onset, it’s important to first understand how high altitude affects the body. When the body is exposed to high altitudes, it will begin to hyperventilate to increase the amount of oxygen it receives. This can lead to a decrease in carbon dioxide levels in the blood, which in turn can lead to cerebral vasodilation. Vasodilation refers to the widening of blood vessels, which can lead to migraines in some individuals.

Research on High Altitude and Migraines

In recent years, research on the connection between high altitude and migraine onset has been increasing. Studies have shown that rapid changes in altitude can trigger the onset of migraines for individuals who are susceptible to the condition. In a study published in the Journal of Neurology, researchers found that individuals who suffer from migraines are more likely to experience migraines when exposed to sudden or rapid changes in high altitudes. In another study published in the Headache journal, researchers found that individuals with a history of migraines are more likely to develop a severe headache when exposed to changes in high altitudes.

Strategies for Migraine Sufferers

For individuals who suffer from migraines, the prospect of a high-altitude trip can be daunting, particularly if they do not have a history of experiencing migraines at high altitudes. While taking steps to stay hydrated, reduce stress, and avoid alcohol can help reduce the risk of suffering a migraine at high altitudes, it may not be enough. Some migraine sufferers may want to consider speaking with a healthcare professional before embarking on a high-altitude trip to discuss potential strategies for migraine management.


The science behind the relationship between high altitudes and migraines is still not fully understood, but research in recent years has pointed to a tangible connection between the two. Rapid changes in high altitudes can trigger the onset of migraines for susceptible individuals, highlighting the importance of taking precautions when traveling to higher elevations. For individuals who suffer from migraines, speaking with a healthcare professional before traveling to high altitudes may be a good idea. Ultimately, continued research into the connection between altitude and migraine onset will help to shed more light on this complex and often debilitating condition.