Migraine-proof your summer funLast Updated:
Summer is full of migraine triggers that threaten to ruin your plans. With a little planning and flexibility, it is possible to have fun and avoid the pain. It’s much easier to create a plan to work around triggers if you actually know what to avoid. Keeping a migraine tracker will help you discover what’s really setting off those attacks. Since you may be new to the idea of triggers, you might not know exactly what to watch out for this summer. This year, use your tracker, and follow these steps to avoid the most common traps.
Your brain on high alert
One of the working theories about migraine uses the analogy of a canary in a mine. Much like that canary, people with migraine are more sensitive to environmental changes. We react negatively to minor variations that most people never notice. The idea is that migraine attacks are triggered by a heightened sensitivity to sensory input and environmental changes. The key to minimizing migraine’s impact is to maintain a routine that is as predictable as possible. Any sudden change can be a trigger. Repeated changes, unpredictable schedules, or sudden lifestyle upheaval can wreak havoc in the migraine brain.
Dehydration is a nasty culprit for most people with migraine. In the summer heat, it’s not always as simple as drinking more water. If you are planning a prolonged outdoor activity, you will need to prevent electrolyte depletion, too. This means alternating water with a beverage that will replace lost electrolytes. Gatorade and other sports drinks are an easy option, but not always well-tolerated due to their artificial colors and sweeteners. Pedialyte can be used, too. My personal favorite is ElectroMix. It is a powdered drink mix that can be dissolved in water. It has a mild lemon-lime flavor without an overwhelming sweet or salty flavor. It is made by the makers of Emergen-C and can usually be found in a health food store.
Keep your cool
Getting over-heated can spell disaster, too. Ideally, you will have an air-conditioned sanctuary in which to retreat when the heat of the day gets overwhelming. You can extend your tolerance for outdoor heat by using umbrellas, personal fans, cooling towels, and ice packs. Hot days require a cooler filled with ice. I take advantage of this by also bringing a few thin hand towels that I can soak in the icy water and wrap around my neck or drape over my head.
Dress like a movie star
Wide-brimmed floppy hats, long silk scarves, and big, dark sunglasses are a must. The hat serves double-duty by holding those icy, wet towels in place and shielding sensitive migraine eyes from bright sunlight. Light-weight and loose-fitting clothes made of mositure-wicking material help, too. Don’t forget to bring a comfortable camp chair! Sitting on a park bench, cement curb, or standing in line for hours are not migraine-friendly. Long ago I adopted the attitude that if my friends want me to be present, then they had better accept I’ll be acting like a diva. It’s not vanity. It’s survival.
Eat like a king (or queen)
Skip the cheap, processed foods. They’re full of preservatives and artificial additives that most migraine brains simply will not tolerate. Take your own food, if you must. Choose wholesome fruits and vegetables, good quality lean meats (not cold cuts!), and whole grains. In addition to quality, make sure that you eat sufficient quantities every four hours. You’re better off grazing throughout the day than waiting hours for a full meal. Don’t be in such a hurry to start the day that you skip a wholesome breakfast either.
Get 40 winks
Go to bed at a decent time and get up at roughly the same time every day. Try not to over-sleep either. Your brain doesn’t care that you’re on vacation. If you must stay out late, then plan time to rest and recover the next day. Pushing yourself to cram too many activities into a brief window of time is a formula for a migraine disaster. Shoot for 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
Here’s a list of my summertime migraine must-haves
- Ice packs — tons of them in assorted sizes
- Refillable ice bags
- Insulated water bottles
- Personal fans in assorted sizes (especially the ones with built-in water spritzers)
- Wide-brimmed floppy hats
- Dark sunglasses with big lenses
- Cooling towels
- Cooling bandanas (the kind filled with gel that expands when it gets wet)
- Beach umbrellas and shades
- Reclining camp chair with built-in umbrella
- Electro-Mix, Gatorade, or other electrolyte drinks
This article is part of the July 2016 Ultimate Blog Challenge