Migraine and Travel

Written by 15 May 2010 843 views One Comment

There are logs of theories about why people with headaches have a hard time traveling: changes in cabin pressures, recirculating air (or lack of it), time zone changes, and “airport stress.”

There are logs of theories about why people with headaches have a hard time traveling: changes in cabin pressures, recirculating air (or lack of it), time zone changes, and “airport stress.” All these may contribute, but the most likely culprit is the change in our patterned behaviors.

Because migraine sufferers are sensitive to changes in pattern, disruption of sleep cycle, meal times and exercise all contribute as triggers. Changes in cortisol, gastrin and the “stress hormones” are potent triggers as well. Therefore, anything we can do to minimize these disruptions will protect us. For example, calculate out your new time schedule for sleep and meals and begin the transformation a few days before traveling. Move around on the plane, if possible, and decide on your sleep plan (to sleep or not to sleep) before boarding. Use a sleep aid, if necessary.

It can also be helpful to do a “pulse prophylaxis” for a day or two before traveling and continue that for a day or two into your new time zone. The prophylactic can be an anti-inflammatory pain medication or a long-acting triptan, or even one of the FDA-approved migraine preventatives. This is something to discuss with your doctor well in advance of your travel dates.

Finally, it is important to travel with your rescue medicine and to take the medicine at the first sign of a headache.

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