Environmental Migraine Triggers

Environmental triggers are the things around you in everyday life that can serve as a migraine trigger. Some of these are obvious, but you may not have thought about some of the others. Remember that triggers are additive in their effect, so any of these can combine together, or can combine with other types of triggers, to make you more susceptible to a migraine attack.

Environmental triggers can include the following:

Bright light or glare

Alternating light and dark, such as:

  • Driving along a tree-lined road
  • Stripes, checkerboards or other patterns (on wallpaper, etc.)
  • Sitting too close to the screen in the cinema

High ambient heat

Weather changes


Loud sounds or commotion

Odors, including:

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Perfume
  • Household cleaners
  • Gasoline, especially diesel
  • Chemical fumes

Travel – changes in time zones, the way you eat, etc.

Some of these triggers can be avoided more easily than others.

A good way to track your suspected triggers is to jot them down on a headache diary.

by Christina Peterson, MD

updated June 17, 2007