Not all migraine sufferers find their headaches worsen during the summer months, but for many pain destroys their enjoyment of what should be an extended period of fun with family and friends.
Here are some tips for how to navigate the summer successfully, minimizing headache attacks while still enjoying plenty of fresh air and sunshine.
Water, Water, Everywhere
Dehydration is a major headache trigger for everyone, not just migraineurs. For those with migraine, however, the consequences are more severe. Make sure you’re never without water by carrying a small bottle with you all the time and topping it up as needed. Keep a record of how much you’re drinking in your migraine diary, and note the results. Too much water can also trigger migraine, so you need to find a balance and keeping a written record is the easiest way. Remember, if you feel thirsty you’re already dehydrated, so don’t wait ‘till your body is complaining. Also bear in mind that not all drinks are equal; iced tea and soda can contain caffeine, for instance, that has diuretic effects, robbing the body of water. Sticking to plain water is the safest bet.
Be Extra Vigilant About Fragrances
Scents and perfumes can linger longer in humid, still air, or travel further on summer breezes, both creating trigger situations for migraineurs. You can’t do much about other people’s perfumes, but you can build in an extra layer of personal protection in your own by looking for hidden scents in common summer products such as insect repellents and sunscreens. Buy products labeled as fragrance-free, and double check the fragrance properties of any chemical ingredients listed that you’re not familiar with. A pharmacist can probably help identify potential scented ingredients.
Keep To Your Familiar Routine
Summer plays havoc with routine. Family outings, holidays and weekends away are all prime temptations to eat or snack more at odd times, go to bed later or take afternoon naps. Migraine bodies don’t like changes in routine, so as far as possible keep regular eating habits, which includes not overindulging in processed or other trigger foods, and retire and rise at your normal times. Some change in routine is impossible to avoid, especially if you’re travelling, but try to keep them to a minimum, and get back on track as soon as possible.
Wear Hats and Sunglasses
Direct sunlight can trigger migraine in a multitude of ways, from glare off water to burning heat on the top of the head. Protect yourself with wide brimmed hats, or peaked baseball caps if that’s more your style, and invest in good sunglasses. Polarized lenses are best because a well as shading the eyes they cut out glare, helping reduce the danger of sudden migraine brought on by glinting bright lights. Other tactics include carrying portable shade in the shape of an umbrella or parasol, and deliberately seeking shady areas wherever possible, even if it means crossing the street so you’re off the sunny side.
Keep Meds Cool
Some migraine medications don’t mix well with heat. Letting your medication get overheated can reduce its effectiveness, which is bad news when it’s needed. Simple tactics like carrying it with you in the air-conditioned car rather than leaving it in the hot trunk, and moving it out of the hot, humid bathroom at home, can keep everything in good condition.
It’s also a good idea to write on your calendar when prescriptions need renewing so you can see at a glance and plan ahead. In the midst of family activity planning and periods away from home, it’s easy for mundane, routine commitments to fall by the wayside and be forgotten.
Organizing events and away days can be stressful, so plan ahead to avoid tension headaches that can grow into migraines. Strategies such as cooking larger batches then freezing meals can help with time management, and making lists of tasks then delegating them to other family members spreads the burden so you don’t feel it’s all down to you to make things happen.
Take Care of You
Schedule some time every day to just relax and unwind, doing whatever makes you happy, and don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ to activities you know will trigger a migraine. Sometimes we get swept along with other people’s ideas of fun, forgetting we’ll pay a heavy price until it’s too late. It’s better to sit out some trigger situations so you can be at your best at other times.
The hot, summer months can be challenging, and sometimes it takes a little sideways thinking and strategizing so pain doesn’t spoil your fun. Completely avoiding migraine attacks is probably too much to expect, but with a bit of extra care summer can still be filled with laughter and fun.