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Headaches From Cold Air

By Elizabeth Pace ; Updated July 27, 2017

Changes in weather bring on headaches for many people. Cold air, in particular, can cause headaches originating both in the nasal passage and the brain's blood vessels. Fortunately, there are simple ways to ease cold weather headaches.

Blood and Barometric Pressure

Barometric pressure refers to the amount of molecules in the air. When air pressure changes, as it does when the temperature changes, the amount of oxygen in the air also changes. Cold air contains more oxygen molecules than warm air. When the brain senses a change in oxygen level, blood vessels expand and contract to balance the change in oxygen intake. In other words, the high oxygen level in cold air can cause the brain's blood vessels to contract, causing a headache.

Dry Air

Cold, dry air can also cause headaches. The nasal passage needs to be somewhat moist in order to function properly. Dry, cold air can dry out the nasal passage, causing it to become irritated and inflamed. This inflammatory response can bring about a painful sinus headache.

Solutions

Since cold-air headaches involve inflammation, anti-inflammatory medicines can bring relief. Ibuprofen and aspirin are commonly used to relieve inflammation. Cold-weather sinus headaches resulting from dry air can be relieved by moistening the air with a humidifier.

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