As joyful and wonderful as the holidays are, they can be a dangerous time for migraine sufferers. Almost all of the positive aspects of the holidays have hidden dangers, that if avoided, may help reduce the chances of getting a migraine. When so many potential triggers are present, it’s even more important to know how to limit your exposure to them. So, what are the dangers?
DANGER: Vacation – It’s great to finally get time off from work, but may aspects of vacations can trigger migraines… sleeping in (too much sleep can trigger a migraine, as can skipping that morning cup ‘o’ joe), changing sleep habits, travel through time zones, sharing a hotel room with your screaming kids
SOLUTIONS: Try to keep the same sleep schedule, and don’t skip that morning coffee. If you want to cut down on your caffeine intake, this is probably not the time to experiment, and it needs to be done gradually. Also, bring ear plugs and a sleep mask, consider trying melatonin which may help regulate sleep.
DANGER: Stress – From planning the holiday meal, to preparing for guests and shopping there are many stressors during the holidays. Some people may have a migraine triggered by stress, and some will get ‘stress let-down’ migraines. This occurs when after a stressful event, you’re finally feeling relieved that it’s all over and you can relax, and BANG! There it is.
SOLUTIONS: Plan ahead over a period of time. Write things down, shop in advance and slowly prepare for the holidays. Trying to get it all done in one week for some people can be a recipe for disaster. If you need to, consider letting another friend or relative host the party or guests. Be extra careful about exposing yourself to triggers during this period, as they are more likely to trigger a migraine attack during this time. Lastly, if you are prone to ‘stress let-down’ migraines, you may want to talk to your doctor about how to take medication to prevent the headache from coming.
DANGER: Parties and Holiday Meals – The food and drink is in abundance, and you look forward to it every year. Different foods and drinks may trigger headaches in different people, and it may take time for you to figure out if you have food and drink triggers, and what they are. The amount of food you eat may also play a role. And what about those smells? People coming to the party dressed to impress, but too often scented to the max. Scented candles and other holiday decorations and smoke may also be present, lingering in the air, awaiting your arrival.
SOLUTIONS: Firstly, don’t skip meals earlier in the day in anticipation of a large holiday meal. Skipping meals may in and of itself trigger a migraine. Avoid your food and drink triggers entirely, if possible. If you don’t know what they are, try to stay away from cured meats and aged cheeses (skip the pepperoni and cheese plate), hot dogs (pigs in blankets), pizza, highly spiced foods, deli meats, MSG. Opt for white wine or light colored liquor over red wine and darker liquors. Or no liquor at all. Try to stick to the most natural and unprepared foods, veggies, fruit, simple grilled meats breads. Eat chocolate and other sugary things in moderation. As for the smells, if you’re close enough to the hostess, you can contact her ahead and talk with her about your problem, maybe she can limit the scented candles. Let your friends know ahead of time that perfumes and colognes may set off your migraines, and ask if they can refrain for this event.
Stick to your normal routines as much as you can. It is the fluctuations and changes in the environment and lifestyle, that tend to trigger migraines.