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Migraine on Holiday

By June 25, 2018 MAI News

Migraine on Holiday!

Migraine or any other kind of headache can attack whenever it likes and when you least expect it. On holiday we try to unwind, do something we normally wouldn’t do and have a great time doing it. Unfortunately for migraine sufferers this is sometimes easier said than done. There are a number of reasons experts think holiday headaches occur;

1 – Routine – We’re out of our routine. Many people have managed to get into a routine which has helped to keep their migraines at bay, or if not at bay, has helped them to cope better with the disorder. It could be this routine which is the answer to the holiday question. During the week, at home, work or school, we get up at the same time every day, we eat lunch, dinner and go to bed at roughly the same time, but on holiday, aside from the day of actual travel, we tend to sleep in, eat and stay up late, drink more alcohol, skip meals or medication and are as far removed from our normal routine as is possible.

2 –  Adrenaline – When we’re at work/school, our bodies are concentrating on getting our work done, they don’t have time to get sick, and in some cases, experts think that the adrenaline that keeps you going during the week subsides at the weekend and on holidays, giving the body the signal to let other things happen, like for pain or sickness to sneak in.

3 – Positive Stress! – Stress is a major trigger for many sufferers. Positive stress, like excitement over going on holiday, packing, worrying about tickets, passports etc, making sure none of the children have been left home alone can be as bad as any other kind of stress. With migraine, stress is stress…

4 – Medication – When we’re out of our routine and distracted by the fun we’re having, we can forget to take our medication. Sometimes, we can forget to bring it altogether and end up in a foreign country that’s never heard of Zomig!

5 – Airport – The airport can be a daunting place at the best of times, but if you feel a migraine coming on, or are in a full-blown attack it can be the worst place on Earth. There are crowds, loud announcements, bright lights, flashing flight info screens. Perfume and cologne are sprayed in your face even if it’s just a giant bar of migraine-triggering chocolate you’re buying. The stress of going through security and being pulled aside for a bag search, even though you’re not up to anything can all be far too much on the average person, never mind a migraine sufferer. Be prepared.

6 – Travel – Motion from trains, pressure and recycled air on aircraft, bad lighting for reading on buses or long traffic jams can all be stressful, but physically can cause nausea, sickness and dehydration, three things that could easily trigger a migraine. The change of climate, or even time zone can affect you badly too as your body clock struggles to acclimatise.

7 – Let-Down Headache – Going from work work work to nothing suddenly is often accompanied by what’s called a ‘let-down headache’. Like pressure on an injury, once the pressure is released the pain can start to throb.

If you can avoid any or all of the above, then chances are, you will have a wonderful holiday.

Tips for a Migraine-Free Holiday

Here are a few things which may help combat that holiday migraine; please let us know if any of them work for you.

1- Routine – Stick to your routine on holiday as much as possible. Try to get up, eat and sleep at the same time as usual. I know this is sometimes not possible when in a different time zone, with a vast hourly difference, but try to gradually change your routine to take account of local time. Bring an extra watch and leave it on Irish time to help you figure out when to do things.

2 – Stress less – If possible, take the two days before your holiday off. Plan your packing and do it in advance, make sure all the stresses surrounding passports,tickets, etc can be sorted earlier. Do as much preparation as possible in the weeks coming up to the holiday and avoid leaving everything ’til the last minute.

3 – Medication – Make sure you have all your medication with you. Some countries require you to bring your prescriptions as well, so make sure you have them packed too. Ask the doctor for a short note explaining your need for your medication. It will help if you need added medication, to see a GP abroad or for customs. It might be a good idea to ask your doctor for an extra prescription or medication if you’ll be away for a while.

If you are going to a foreign country, it’s a good idea to check out where the local health/medical centre/GP is and if anyone there speaks your language, and also check to see if that country has a national Migraine organisation which might give you information on where to go for help. Visit the European Migraine and Headache Alliance website to see the list of member organisations in Europe.

If you’re bringing extra medication, don’t keep it all in one bag in case one gets accidentally sent to a more exotic location

Keep something on you that you can hand to a person should a severe attack occur and you can’t communicate, so that they will be able to help you, like a Migraine Identity Card, something that will tell them what you need to take. We can provide you with an ID card. Please email us if you would like one. The children’s card is A5 size, but the adult, or normal card is wallet size and comes with a plastic pouch to seal it into once filled out. If travelling outside of Ireland, it might be worth considering doing something similar in the language of the country you are going to.

(The pictures below show the front and back of the cards)

4  –  Airport –  Many airports have a quiet area, prayer room or chapel which are normally darker than the rest of the airport and are much more quiet. All ban the use of mobile phones.

  • Dublin Airport has a Multi-faith Prayer Room in Terminal 2.
  • Shannon Airport also has a chapel.
  • Belfast City Airport recently opened a Multi-faith Quiet Room situated to the right of the arrivals door.
  • Belfast International has a quiet room at the top of the exit hall approaching the domestic arrivals hall on the right.
  • Knock Airport has a prayer room on the first floor opposite the Sláinte restaurant.
  • Cork Airport has a chapel beside the multi-storey car park on the ground floor

Dublin Airport also has pharmacies and can get you medical aid if needed. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from the Airport Police if you need it. There are customer service agents, always dressed in pink! happy to tell you what you need to know.

If you’re worried about being searched and the hassle of taking off your shoes and opening out your bags, etc, be ready. Wear shoes or sandals that can be easily slipped off and on, only put essentials in your hand luggage and keep your pockets free if possible so you don’t have to worry about pinging or setting off any alarms.

There are drinking fountains scattered around Dublin Airport so you can access water before you go through Security. They are in Terminal 1 on Departures and Arrivals levels, in baggage reclaim area and gates 100, 200 & 300, in Terminal 2 at check in, baggage reclaim, shopping/restaurants and the entrance to gates 400. For information on facilities at your destination or returning airport, see their individual airport websites.

5 – Travel – Talk to your doctor beforehand about medication or alternative treatments for motion sickness. Keep hydrated, bring water with you everywhere. Many airports now have shops after the security gates where you can buy water and bring it on to the plane.

If you’re driving down the country with kids in the car, bring games, books or DVDs to occupy them when you are stuck in traffic. Let plenty of air into the car, even if it’s not that warm. Give yourself plenty of time to get there so you’re not rushing so even being stuck in traffic won’t be too stressful. Break your journey, even if it’s not too long a drive, stop at a town or rest stop, get out, stretch your legs, have a bite to eat and relax for a while.

Applegreen is just one company that provides places for you and your car to refuel. They have some motorway service areas on some roads, as well as facilities in towns. See their website for their locations and information. The UK has many motorway service areas. You can check out all the motorway service facilities in Ireland and the UK on Motorway Services Online

If travelling on a long-haul flight or train journey, don’t be afraid to get up, stretch a bit, walk about the place if possible. Ask for an aisle seat so that you don’t have to climb across sleeping passengers to get out of your seat, or to get easier access to the loo. Don’t forget to ask for help.

Consider trying some travel aids – like a Sea-Band, which may help with nausea, or try EarPlanes, which will reduce the noise and help with air-pressure.

6 – Food – Be aware of food triggers and try to check the ingredients on menus, especially if it’s not the kind of food you would normally eat. Carry a list of known triggers and tell your hotel, tour operator or even the airline in advance. They can be surprisingly accommodating when it comes to food. Drink plenty of water and make sure you have access to water, especially in a hot climate.

7 – Relax – Try to relax as much as possible. Whether you’re in Spain, Italy or here in Ireland, take a ‘siesta’ in the afternoon if you feel the need. You’re on holiday, it’s your time, so make sure you factor in some ‘me time’. Maybe discuss this with family and friends before you go so that it can be planned for and no one will be disappointed if you’re not on a trip or activity. Rather than avoiding something you’d like to do however, try to think about the ways you can actually do it. Do a bit of brainstorming with the family and see how they can help you too

8 – Activities – If you’re an active person and plan on skiing, walking, hiking, cycling or surfing, don’t over exert yourself. Know your limits. Wind-down slowly when you’ve had enough. Try to avoid the sudden stop, as already mentioned, the ‘let-down headache’ can be painful. Keep your medication on you for handiness, and wear protective sunglasses. Polarised lenses reduce the glare and wrap-around shades block the sun from sneaking in the corners of your eyes. This applies to polar regions as well as hot, sunny regions. The glare from snow and ice can be equally dazzling!

Make a packing checklist for day outings e.g. a hat, sunglasses, sun cream, bottles of water, medications, bandages, extra shoes, extra snacks, a small fan, SeaBands in case you are nauseous, tissues or wet wipes, an ice pack (handy on picnics too for chilling the non-sulphite wine), ear plugs, money and emergency contact phone numbers. Keep everything you can in a bag ready to go.

9 – Sight-seeing – If you’re rushing to see too many things in too little time it can add unwanted stress, so try to prioritise the most important sights and take your time. It is better to miss one or two sights and enjoy the rest without a migraine than to rush around, trigger a migraine and miss them all as well as the rest of the holiday.

If you have any more tips on how to avoid or manage migraine on holiday, please feel free to send them to us.

Travel tips for those suffering from Vestibular Migraine, Mal Débarquement and other Vestibular Disorders

Here are some tips for people who suffer from vestibular disorders. Many of the general tips above can apply to many of these conditions; however, here are a few more that might be helpful.

  • Make sure you’re well rested before your trip, if possible take some extra time off before you go away e.g. if leaving on a Monday, take the previous Friday to give yourself the weekend to relax.
  • Ask your GP for medications that may help, or discuss possible medications and treatments to be ready before you leave. Not having to worry about this can help take some pressure off you.
  • If travelling by car avoid the back seat if you can. If you are a driver fine, but if not look straight ahead instead of looking from side to side.
  • When driving on long trips, stop every couple of hours and take a 10-15 minute walk. This is good for your balance as well as your circulation.
  • When stopped at traffic lights, it might help if you move your head around a little
  • Before getting out of the car look ahead of you for a few minutes.
  • After the end of an activity with constant movement, take a walk and focus on the horizon
  • Reduce stress by packing early and getting to the airport well in advance (stress increases symptoms).
  • Try EarPlanes a type of earplug sold in many chemists or in Boots. These “relieve air-pressure discomfort” and “reduce noise”.
  • Wear a Sea-Band, which may help with nausea.
  • If possible, request a seat by the wing section, it’s the most stable part of the plane which can help to reduce sensations of motion and light turbulence.
  • Avoid downward gaze/reading, listen to audio books if you can – Audible.co.uk, or audiobooks.ie have a great selection.
  • Many air travellers suffer from nasal congestion problems during flight. Talk to your GP about using a decongestant or nasal spray before take-off, and, if necessary, before beginning the descent to landing – ask an air hostess to give you a nod about half an hour before the plane starts to descend.
  • Try to be awake prior to landing since your Eustachian tube does not open as effectively during sleep. The Eustachian tube connects the middle ear to the throat. Its function is mainly to keep the pressure in the middle ear equalized with pressure in the outside, when the pressure changes it can feel full and sometimes painful. This is why we have to pop our ears! Again, an Air Hostess will probably be happy to wake you if you explain the situation.


European Health Insurance Card

The EHIC or European Health Insurance Card replaced the old E111 forms for European citizens travelling within Europe. You can apply for it by post or online, but an online applicant must already be part of the Medical Card or Drugs Payment Scheme. There is no charge for this card and it might be essential to you to help access quick medical care in Europe should you need it.