Holiday Headaches: Sun, Sea, and Migraine

Many people find themselves dealing with a headache on holiday. Going away can be stressful, but there are things to do that can help!
toy van on beach

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Who doesn’t love going on holiday? The beaches. The endless scoops of ice cream. The comfy hotels. And, of course, the precious time away with family and friends! But holidays are rarely plain sailing. First, you have to pack all the essentials (along with any added extras). Then you have to travel to your destination. These journeys are often long, boring, and pretty uncomfortable. So despite all the time to unwind and the opportunities to have fun, holidays can actually be pretty stressful. And this is where migraine attacks come in.

Why do I suffer migraine attacks when I go holiday?

Stress is a well-known trigger of migraine attacks. And whilst we might decide to go on holiday to limit stress, it isn’t completely avoidable. The stress caused by booking, organising, and arriving at your destination, therefore, may well be the cause of your holiday headache. Furthermore, we can’t plan nor always predict when a migraine attack is to strike. As headaches appear randomly, there is no way of stopping them arriving just as you go on your travels.

man holding child's hand walking along beach
Children often suffer from migraine attacks on holiday triggered by intense feelings like excitement

Holiday migraine is a particular issue for children. Whilst the kids may not be so preoccupied with luggage arrangements or flight bookings as the adults, they experience another intense feeling besides stress: excitement. The change of scenery and all the different activities on offer can lead to tension and this, in turn, can trigger a migraine attack.

Is there a way to prevent or treat these headaches?

As with all migraine attacks, you cannot prevent the onset of a headache entirely. But there are certainly measures you can take to reduce the likelihood of (or alleviate) an attack:

  • Drink WaterYou know the drill: Stay hydrated! One of the best ways to combat migraine is to drink plenty of water, and drink it regularly. This is especially important if you are going on holiday to somewhere hot or are participating in vigorous physical activity (e.g. skiing). Always carry a bottle around with you so you can sip it throughout the day!
  • Be careful of what you eat – Certain foods (particularly more indulgent foods like chocolate and cheese) are known to trigger migraine attacks. So whilst holidays might be the time to treat yourself a little, make sure you do not go overboard and eat at regular intervals to maintain your blood sugar levels.
  • Get as much rest as possible – Holidays often leave you pretty tired. All that travelling, planning, and worrying seriously impacts your sleep (and jet lag doesn’t help matters!). Make sure you have plenty of sleep before you leave, and make sure not to disrupt your sleeping pattern too much whilst you are away.

National Headache Foundation

The Migraine Institute

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