Migraine While Traveling: How to Avoid
How do I avoid a migraine while traveling? I love to travel but inevitably get a migraine before, during, and/or after. I have been lucky enough to travel all around the world and unlucky enough to have migraine attacks in most of those places. I have learned many lessons, here’s my story…..
Today, I woke up at 5 am to embark on a trip to meet my husband for a weekend away without our kids. The first trigger I couldn’t control was sleep. My mother-in-law and mom are sharing child care for my children for the weekend. My mother-in-law was kind enough to travel up for the weekend and arrived last night. By the time I got the kids to bed and we chatted a bit I got to bed at about 11:30 pm. At 2:00 am my daughter woke up with leg cramps and by the time I comforted her and fell back asleep I got about an hour of sleep. I wasn’t anticipating getting much sleep with the anxiety of leaving my kids for the weekend anyway, so oh well.
On the way to the airport, I chugged a big bottle of water and took an allergy pill. I never realized how much my sinuses contributed to my head pain until about 3 years ago. I saw an ENT and he told me I had had a sinus infection, from his guess, for months. Since then I have had sinus surgery and tried to be more aware of how congestion triggers my migraines.
I grabbed a cup of coffee and boarded the plane. Caffeine helps some people and triggers others. I am one that it helps.
The woman that sat down next to me had apparently taken a bath in perfume before she boarded the plane and brought trigger #2 to me. I put up my wall of defense by putting my hoodie up and over my nose as I politely looked out the window. Hoodies act as my armor. I wear them because they are not only comfy but when the hood is up it helps shield peripheral light and sound. It, combined with my huge sunglasses is practically a uniform for me.
I grabbed a glass of water every time the flight attendant walk by. No ice, it grosses me out on airplanes. The perfume lady went to the bathroom twice and each time came back and lotioned her hands with more perfume laced lotion. I didn’t have children to entertain and worry about, I packed healthy non-trigger snacks and my stress was low beyond that. At my layover, I got lunch and another huge water. It was $5.00 but worth keeping me hydrated. Plus, I saved it to reuse for my trip. (Not that I didn’t already have one packed in my suitcase too.)
I had a long layover but by the time I ate lunch, talked to my best friend, texted another, checked on the kids, shopped, and walked around a bit, I was ready to board again. This time it was a small plane for a short ride. As we boarded, my stress level began to rise with the increase in temperature. The ground air was not working for the plane and it was what felt like 100 degrees or so. My head immediately filled with throbbing pain. I took off my hoodie, closed my eyes, and started calmly taking slow breathes.
Staying calm about the rising pain is an important key to keeping in control. When I panic it comes on faster and more intensely. Of course, our plane had to wait in line and we sat in our sweltering seats for about 20 minutes. I was so glad I had drunk so much water and praised myself for controlling the triggers that I could know there are many I can’t. Not to get too graphic, but as we ascended, the man behind me had gas and forced us to boil in his stench. I actually wished for the perfume lady to come back. Once we got in the air and the smell dissipated it was a quick flight but my head was starting to give way to the building triggers.
Migraine after Flying
As I exited the plane I braced myself for the change in weather. As you can imagine the temperature and barometric pressure are a bit different from Cleveland to California. Here came another trigger. I got my luggage and sat outside breathing in the fresh air I needed all day. I then took a pain pill, a deep breath, and arrived at the hotel. A success, I made it! Not to say that a migraine wouldn’t be triggered by that night or the next day, but my travel was done for the day. Oh, the joys of traveling.
So in summary, here are the things I controlled:
Water, water, water.
Not too much, not too little but just right.
I oftentimes wait too long to take meds because I hate taking so many pills. I was proactive in taking my Sudafed and reactive in taking my pain pill.
I was fortunate to avoid a lot of stressful things that traveling often brings (I got my luggage and my flights arrived as scheduled, yeah!). But when I did feel stressed I meditated and breathed through it
I chose a burrito with no trigger foods and packed healthy snacks. No Chinese for me with the possibility of msg!
I didn’t work out but I made sure to take a few laps around the concourse to get my endorphins slightly raised and blood flowing.
Things I couldn’t avoid:
I would have liked to but it just didn’t happen
Things I got lucky enough not to encounter:
Lights and noise
No screaming babies, no glaring sun through windows. I got lucky!