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Avoiding Migraines on Summer Road Trips

Posted by Migraine Relief Center on Jun 8, 2016 7:30:00 AM


Is the very thought of your upcoming road trip making you feel queasy with fear over the possibility of developing a migraine on the journey?

Sometimes, the fear of a migraine episode can be (nearly) as bad as the attack itself, but road trips are supposed to be fun and certainly not marred by doubt and worry.

Here are some tips on how to ward off migraines during your trip, hopefully giving you confidence that you can enjoy the trip without pain.

Understanding Travel Triggers

When you consider all the lifestyle changes that travel instigates, it’s no wonder that migraine sufferers often have a bad time on the road. Some of those changes include:

  • Weather and altitude changes
  • Changes in diet
  • Disruption to daily routine
  • Stress levels and mood swings
  • Entering different time zones can disrupt sleep patterns
  • Eating more processed foods
  • Consuming more alcohol
  • Bright lights on the road
  • Becoming dehydrated

That’s a lot to take into consideration, but giving some thought to all of those triggers can give some clues regarding ways you can avoid them.


Women are notorious for taking on too much, especially when they have children.

Whenever possible try to divide the tasks that must be done during a road trip, such as navigating, being in charge of snacks, looking for places to stop along the way, social media updates, or taking photos.

Passing on a few of these jobs, especially to older children who may enjoy surfing on a tablet or smart phone to find interesting stopping places up ahead, takes away some pressure so your mind is not constantly juggling trying to make everything perfect for everyone.

Stay Flexible

Trying to stick to too tight a schedule can put you under time pressure and lead to a lack of sleep or missed meals, both of which are common migraine triggers.

Part of the attraction of a road trip is being able to plan your own itinerary, and while everyone in the party will have things they also want to do, it is important that your needs are taken care of too.

You may, for instance, need to travel in fits and starts rather than one continuous drive for hours on end, especially if the drone of the car engine triggers your headache. Taking a couple of hours break in the afternoon is preferable to spending all evening holed up with a migraine.

Put Together a First-Aid and Emergency Kit

Make sure you have a small first aid kit in the car with you. Include over-the-counter medications along with those you’ve been prescribed, both abortive and preventive drugs. It also helps to keep a small supply of medication in your purse so help is readily to hand without you having to dig through your main luggage. Other useful items to keep close by include:

  • Sunglasses. Driving into the sun is a nightmare for migraine sufferers, but so is flashing sunlight through buildings or trees, or bright city lights at night. Give your eyes protection since these triggers are unpredictable and rapid.
  • An eye or sleeping mask, so you can catch up on missed sleep while someone else drives.
  • Bottled water. Sip regularly to avoid dehydration.
  • Motion sickness pills. Also, travel where you’re most comfortable. Some people get motion sickness when they’re in the backseat, for instance.
  • Earplugs. Road noise can heighten stress levels, and earplugs can bring welcome relief.
  • Emergency, healthy snacks to keep your blood sugar up. Avoid going for too long between meals as this can lead you into bad eating habits if you get too hungry.

Include anything else that you have found helpful in the past, such as soothing music or relaxation tapes.

Build In Peace of Mind

Have a chat with other members of your road trip party, even if this is just your family who are familiar with your migraine attacks and how they affect you. Make sure they know what’s in your emergency pack and where to find it, and that they understand that sometimes you may need some leeway when it comes to keeping to schedules and following itinerary plans. It’s important you don’t feel under pressure, or guilty, if you need rest because of migraine pain. Getting everyone on board from the outset will give some comfort and reassurance.

If migraines are a regular feature in your life, getting away without one on a road trip may be unlikely, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid them. Plan carefully, give yourself plenty of breaks, and delegate tasks so you’re not overburdened. Once done, there’s no reason you can’t have fun along with everyone else.

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Topics: Migraine

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