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Is indoor pollution triggering your migraines?

Is indoor pollution triggering your migraines?

Smoke in many forms, whether from cars, cigarettes or kerosene, can trigger migraines in some
Illustration of a woman running in a cloud of smoke
Representational image | Shutterstock

Migraines have always baffled sufferers and doctors alike as the headaches are often unpredictable and strike the victims in varying degrees.

A 2019 Lancet study pointed out that migraine was the most prevalent neurological disorder in India, affecting close to 48.8 crore people annually. Migraines strike one in seven people around the world.

Migraines contribute to the overall disease burden of the people in India. Yet it remains substantially under-recognised and under-treated.

Recent studies have associated headaches with pollutants within people’s homes. Multiple studies have found a link with the prevailing weather conditions and pollution. High humidity was associated with the onset of headaches in summer while traffic-related gaseous pollutants triggered headaches in winter.

One familiar trigger is extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Gaseous pollutants like carbon monoxide from portable generators and nitrogen dioxide lower the saturation of oxygen in blood which, in turn, can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting and difficulty in breathing.

There are several indoor sources of harmful pollutants which include smoke from tobacco products, burning of wood and kerosene, building material. Even popping corn in microwaves is known to release diacetyl, a compound which is linked to severe lung damage if inhaled in large quantities.

The nicotine in cigarettes can narrow down the size of your blood vessels and reduce blood flow to tissues surrounding the brain. Its effects show up immediately after being exposed to the source of pollution, migraine.

Bleaching powder and other household cleaning materials contain harmful toxins and chemicals which can start off a migraine. Cigarette smoke, perfumes and incense sticks and scented candles are also triggers. They can affect an individual in varying intensities either immediately and their effects may last for days.

Women aged 35-39 years were found more prone to migraines compared to men of the same age group. The effects of migraine peaked by the age of 40- 44 years during menopause; high levels of oestrogen and female sex hormones were found to make them vulnerable to migraine attacks.

Many studies have indicated that gaseous pollutants like carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and many volatile organic compounds can be removed with the help of indoor plants like aloe vera, bamboo, banana plants and spider plant.

Many pointers associate migraine attacks with pollutants. However, research exploring the a link between migraines and indoor pollution is limiting. Consequently, tracking the daily air quality index in our localities and within our homes to ensure a migraine-proof  environment is difficult.

Adapting to an effective routine with appropriate proper eating habits and downsizing tackling stress can effectively reduce the risks of migraine. Proper Hygiene and clean environments can significantly reduce the risks of migraines associated with pollution.

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