Travelling with a migraine – Tips from a chronic sufferer

It’s no secret that travelling and planning can be somewhat stressful from time to time. Now, imagine having a migraine while travelling. That quintessential jabbing, stabbing, shooting, piercing, sharp pain that accompanies a migraine.  It is quite literally, the living version of hell. Take it from me, I’ve been a chronic migraine sufferer since the tender age of three. Yup! You read that correctly, three years old. I’ve gotten migraines in every imaginable scenario, whether it be school, work, riding my motorcycle, on a train, plane, or driving a car. You can kind of call me a “migraine connoisseur” at this point in my life. Trust me, it’s not a title I wear with pride, or have joy of owning. To be honest, it’s really. Fucking. Shitty! And if I hear another person say, “Isn’t there something the doctor can do?” Oh, and my personal favourite, “Ya, I get headaches too!” I will literally EXPLODE!

As an avid traveller, whether it be by train, plane, car, or motorcycle, I’ve mastered how to deal with my migraines, or at least how to calm them slightly. I’ve listed some tips and tricks that may hopefully help another migraine sufferer in the future whether they are trotting around the globe, or simply commuting home from work.

Read more: How to make long haul flights more bearable 

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Always Plan Ahead

Having a plan of attack is surely one of the ways to reduce stress, anxiety and of course, migraines. Any advance planning will definitely help in aiding a headache that may potential spiral into a painful migraine.  Organizing your itinerary and pre-travel errands will reduce the stress of running around right before your trip. I’m not saying to plan your every exact move on your itinerary, but knowing where to go, what gate to go to, or train track to be on makes a huge difference. Nobody likes running around last minute like a chicken with their head cut off. Make sure to give yourself enough time to get to the airport, board any trains, get through customs and don’t forget all of that waiting in numerous lineups. Then, once you’re through with all of that, grab a bite to eat and relax before your flight, or train ride.

Read more: You’ve booked your ticket for your solo trip. Now what? 

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Don’t Forget Your Pain Medication

Whether it’s over the counter pain medication, or prescription, it’s imperative that you don’t forget to bring some sort of medicinal relief for migraines. Try to remember to bring extras as well. It’s always better to have too much with you than not enough. I try not to take as much pain medication now, as I know it has damaging effects to the kidney down the road, especially after years and years of usage, but sometimes you absolutely need them. #MigraineProblems

Stay Hydrated

It’s clinically proven that migraine sufferers tend to get dehydrated a lot faster than those who do not suffer from migraines.  Dehydration can happen faster while travelling within the dry environment of a plane, doing vigorous activities such as hiking, cycling or being outdoors all day in the heat. To avoid this from happening, always, always, always drink some glorious H2O.

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Be Mindful Of Climate Change

If you’re travelling to a warmer and more humid climate than your body is used to, chances are a migraine may be in the forecast. If you’re anything like me when it comes to killer migraines, the climate change will literally debilitate you. More specifically, rain, extreme heat and humidity are my arch nemeses. When I was in Thailand, I remember having SUCH a brutal migraine, that I basically forced everyone to call it an early night because I couldn’t stand to be in the bar any longer. I only had one beer, but it was the heat and humidity mixed with the constant noise that drove me crazy. It didn’t help that we had the “Party Tuk-Tuk” the whole way home busting beats as I sat there slumped over and pretty much ready to jump out. Oh, and the morning I woke up in Malta with a headache only to look out my window and see the darkest clouds and massive waves crashing onto the promenade in front of my hotel. People commonly joke about how I am in the wrong career and should be a weatherperson, since I am usually 95% right when it comes to guessing if it is going to rain, or if a storm is approaching anywhere along the Eastern seaboard of North America. It’s crazy. My head is usually more correct than the weatherman on TV. Heading to the cottage on the weekend and wondering what the weather will be like? Just ask me how my head is.

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Try To Eat Somewhat Healthy

What’s that old saying? “Eat like shit, feel like shit?” Did I just make that up? I don’t know! It isn’t completely wrong though. While travelling, I still try to stick to somewhat healthy eating habits, without completely depriving myself of indulging on local cuisine. If I eat a salad with chicken, or salmon for lunch and have some pasta, schnitzel with gravy, dessert and beer for supper, then I’ll feel fine. If I’m going to eat cakes, cookies, sugar, booze and carbs all day long, chances are I’ll end up with some kind of sugar induced headache. For many migraine sufferers, certain foods can be a trigger (see my next point). Everything in moderation, folks.

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Know Your Triggers & Try To Avoid Them

People who are susceptible to migraines are known to have triggers. A trigger can be anything from bright, flickering light, extreme heat, or even certain foods. Since I am a longtime migraine sufferer, I know most of my triggers by now. Some of my triggers are the weather (mostly rain, humidity and change in barometric pressure), dark chocolate, excessive alcohol, bright light, stress, getting TOO much sleep and stuffiness due to allergies. Some of the things that I find help ease the pain even slightly are Ginger Gravol Liquid Gels (for nausea caused by migraines), Advil Extra Strength LiquiGels (taken only when absolutely needed), LOTS of caffeine, peppermint gum, or the scent of peppermint (has a cooling and calming effect), an ice pack and of course, a dark, silent room to sleep my pain away in.

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Even after taking every precaution in the book, migraines are still very stealthy and come on very quickly and randomly at most times. The best way to cope with a migraine if you are out travelling around town, or flying in a plane at 40,000 feet is to do the following: Stop what you’re doing, sit and relax, tell a flight attendant and see if there is an ice pack available, eat something high in protein like nuts, drink lots of water and most importantly, keep calm and stay positive. Nothing fuels a migraine faster than stress, or crying and screaming, trust me. Been there, done that. It doesn’t help.

Travelling is something that I love to do and being a migraine sufferer won’t stop me from seeing the world, so I try not to think about it, or let anything stress me out while I travel, because in the end, I’ll take a delayed flight, or missed train over a migraine any day. 

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Do any of you guys suffer from migraines? Have any stories, or tips that you want to share? I’d love to hear about them and learn what works for you! Let me know in the comments below! xo

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