Halloween 2020 and Autumn Migraine Tips
It’s Halloween 2020 – Not one of the many movie sequels, but this year’s actual occasion. Although the movies may be less frightening than the current reality! This year we have to wonder how Halloween will manifest! Will we be able to celebrate it the same ways we normally do?
For some of us yes, there should be no problem once we take the government and NPHET advice for cough and sneeze etiquette, washing hands, social distancing, etc., seriously (facemasks are a pre-requisite for Halloween anyway so there should be no problem here!) But for those of us living in counties and cities where the prevalence of Covid-19 is higher, we may have to come up with new ways of celebrating the scary season.
We’re also at that strange time of year where we’re between two worlds, just like the ancient Celts believed. The light is fading early and appearing late, the weather is changing, the world is changing colour before our eyes and our poor brains think we should still be in bed when we’re having our breakfast!!
First of all, the regular Halloween tips:
- Halloween automatically turns children into sweet-thirsty ghouls, try to avoid giving them too much sweet stuff, not only is it unhealthy, it can trigger migraine, and turn your little ghouls into screaming banshees
- If necessary, wear ear plugs/muffs/phones to block out the bangers and fireworks – they are inevitable, but will eventually stop
- Avoid going to a bonfire. If you go to an unsupervised bonfire, you have no idea of what’s fuelling it. The burning of some plastics and other materials can give off toxic smoke and smells that may trigger a migraine
- If you have no choice and the little ghouls insist on seeing a bonfire, try to go to a permitted and supervised one, and stand as far back as possible. Keep an eye on the weather. Wind can blow flames and sparks a fair distance from the fire. Should the flickering light cause you problems, concentrate on looking at the little ghouls instead, however, large fires can be mesmerising, so a pair of sunglasses would be handy to have with you. Stay as safe as possible
- Try to go out as early as possible if you’re going trick-or-treating with the little ghouls, so that you can be back before the main mayhem begins, and don’t be tempted to pinch stuff from their goody bags along the way!
- Keep your pets indoors and as calm as possible – a terrified and continuously barking dog can really add to the noise and migraine, and the stress on the poor animal itself is terrible.
- Nuts can be triggers for some, but almonds, cashews and peanuts are all good sources of magnesium, which can be helpful for migraineurs
- Pumpkins are also high in magnesium, so when finished carving your pumpkin, roast the seeds in your oven or make soup or a pie from the pulp!
- Avoid foods with the following (where possible)
- MSG or Monosodium Glutamate – this is widely used in tinned, packaged and frozen foods to preserve flavour
- Aspartame – a sweetener used in fizzy drinks
- Nitrates – foods which contain nitrates and other additives include processed meat, ham, hot dogs, spinach
- Avoid cheese – the tyramine in fermented cheese is cited as being responsible for migraine attacks
- Avoid/reduce alcohol – and reduce your intake of caffeine. Try organic wines and light or non-coloured spirits if you want a drink. Try to get wines with low sulphites and tannins where possible. If you suffer from Cluster Headache be very wary of beer, in one study in the US it was found to have been a major trigger of Cluster Headache attacks[i]
- Avoid citrus fruits – No oranges or lemons in the Halloween games
- Avoid the Halloween sweets and chocolate. Don’t be tempted to dip into the leftover treats or steal from the harvested pumpkin buckets!
Food is not always a migraine trigger
Many of the foods listed are regarded as typical migraine triggers, but they may not be triggers for you. In fact food may not be a trigger at all. Undoubtedly some migraineurs can identify that a certain food triggers their migraine, however, for other people, it may actually be a symptom of the migraine and not an actual trigger.
Some experts think that when you enter that first stage of the migraine, known as the prodrome phase, your brain releases certain chemicals, so your body starts to crave certain food items, such as chocolate or caffeine, or indeed sugar. You go to the fridge, take out a bar of Dairy Milk and eat it. An hour or two later, your pain begins, and you identify that pain with eating the chocolate, hence blaming the poor innocent chocolate bar as the trigger and depriving yourself of one of life’s simple pleasures!
Some ideas for celebrating Halloween 2020:
Here are some ideas of how to celebrate Halloween with Covid-19 restrictions in mind!
- A Zoombie fest – Use zoom or another online platform to hold a virtual Halloween 2020 party for adults or children, or both!
- Community Outdoor Horror Fest – Hold a socially distant horror fest outside using a projector and the wall of a house, a large sheet hanging off a tree or indeed a proper screen in the neighbourhood
- Hanging Treats – Instead of hanging witches from trees this year or handing out treats, hang treats around your garden and let the little ghouls pick them like they would apples
- Overdo the decor – go way over-the-top on the decorations, if nothing else it will cheer someone up
- Hold a scavenger hunt in the dark at home – hide treats around the house, then turn off the lights and let little ghouls hunt them in the dark. Make sure you have a Halloween torch handy in case anyone is afraid of the dark.
- Bake healthy goodies at home – use pumpkin seeds and gingerbread to make witches, ghosts, and ghouls
- Hold a community socially distant door or window decorating competition
- Have a community car-boot Trick or Treat – Get everyone in the community to fill their car boots with goodies, take over a local car park or other area where you won’t get into trouble and have the children and adults socially distance themselves through the boots. You can decorate your cars and have little surprises popping up here and there.
- Check out some online activities like Virtual Escape Rooms – https://www.independent.co.uk/extras/indybest/gadgets-tech/virtual-escape-room-free-online-uk-zoom-harry-potter-a9515911.html
- Download a scary audiobook and set the children up for a ghostly reading for the evening (socially distant of course)
- Make your own coronavirus-shaped Halloween piñata and enjoy whacking it open!
- If you do go to an organised firework display or bonfire, make absolutely sure to adhere to the social distancing and facemask guidelines
I know we’re all sick to the back teeth of all of this same advice about masks, distancing, washing hands, etc., but we proved in lockdown back in March that it does work and that we can do it!
General Autumn Tips: (some of which can apply all year round)
- Sleep/rest/retreat – Rest, sleep, retreating from the mayhem can all help you. Have some alone time. Maintain a regular sleep pattern if possible
- Make sure your medication is to hand
- Stay hydrated
- The sun is low and bright this time of year. It will be from now on, so wear sunglasses with polarised lenses. Or wear wrap-around shades so it can’t sneak in the corners
- As the dark evenings and mornings are coming in we get less and less light. If you think you’re affected by this, or experience symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) you could try some ‘Light Therapy’ I know some people with migraine are sensitive to light, but this can be helpful for those who aren’t affected by light to treat symptoms such as SAD and severe PMS. Light therapy has also been touted as a possible treatment for migraine.
- If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, and it’s affecting you badly, or more than usual, you could try some counselling techniques such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) or contact an organisation like ‘MyMind‘ which offers counselling without the necessity of being referred, and in some cases offers counselling over the internet.
- Find a relaxation technique that suits you, such as yoga, mindfulness, or listening to soft music. Beaumont Hospital has a mindfulness and relaxation centre, with some exercises on their website here. Massage, Yoga and reflexology can be helpful.
- Take a look at MAI’s online programme
- As it’s the time for colds, it’s easy for a migraine to be dismissed as a sinus or flu-associated headache, so if you haven’t been diagnosed with migraine yet but you suspect that’s what it is, get a migraine diary and keep note of your symptoms. This combined with a good history should enable your doctor to diagnose correctly and treat you properly.
- Speak to your GP about the flu shot this winter. Different people have different reactions to this jab so make sure you are safe to take it.
- Cold Therapy – Try using something like the Migra-Cap which you can find in some pharmacies around the country. Migra-Cap combines cold therapy and complete darkness to relieve pain. Between uses, you leave it in your fridge or freezer. Sometimes, combining this with your feet in a basin of warm water can be helpful.
- Exercise helps to balance your blood sugar levels. It also improves breathing and releases the feel-good endorphins, and leaving you feeling happier and healthier. Discuss with your doctor which exercise would suit you the best. If the physical impact of running is too much, try an exercise with smooth movements, e.g. cycling or swimming.
- It’s also the beginning of silly season where everyone starts getting ready for that other festival at the end of the year. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself to get organised.
Oíche Shamhna Shona Dhaoibh go Léir!!
[i] Alcoholic beverages as trigger factor and the effect on alcohol consumption behavior in patients with migraine G. L. J. Onderwatera,* , W. P. J. van Oosterhouta,b,*, G. G. Schoonmana,c, M. D. Ferraria,† and G. M. Terwindta,†
The information contained in this article is for information only and not intended to replace medical advice or diagnosis.