Migraine and Holidays

By 4 June 2019Health, Lifestyle

A Few Tips for Migraine and holidays

Holidays are good, even great, and sometimes absolutely fantastic, but no matter how good you feel about going on holiday there’s always a little demon called migraine waiting to pounce. Here are some tips which may help combat that holiday migraine.


  • Stick to your routine on holiday as much as possible. Try to get up, eat and sleep at the same time as usual
  • If abroad bring an extra watch and leave it on Irish time to help you figure out when to do things, or use your mobile phone clock

Stress less

  • If possible, take the two days before your holiday off to relax and prepare yourself mentally
  • Do as much preparation as possible in the weeks coming up to the holiday and avoid leaving everything ’til the last minute
  • Arrange travel to and from airports or ferry ports well in advance so you won’t have to worry about it closer to the time
  • Arrange travel insurance and your European Health Insurance Card early to get them out of the way
  • Make arrangements for any pets while you’re away so you won’t be worried about them
  • Make copies of your itinerary and keep them on you so you’ll have them to hand should you need them
  • Make a checklist of everything you need and tick it off as you pack so you know you’ve forgotten nothing


  • 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. Ask your doctor for an extra prescription or extra medication if you’ll be away for a while.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Check to see if that country has a national migraine organisation which might give you information on where to go for help. Check the EMHA website for international Members
  • Keep a Migraine Identity Card on you that you can hand to a person should a severe attack occur and you can’t communicate – we can supply you with one


  • Before leaving for your holiday make sure you’ve checked the availability of childminding services in case you need them, e.g. if one person is off shopping or golfing and a migraine hits the one left behind…
  • If your child suffers from migraine, make sure the staff and childminders all know and are aware of the possible symptoms and how to treat them
  • Try to avoid giving them fizzy drinks, sweets, slush puppies, etc anything that may trigger a migraine, as the temptation is to be lenient on holidays regarding treats for your children – this will help them avoid migraine and help you avoid having a hyper child!
  • Make sure your child drinks plenty of water and doesn’t stay in the sun for too long
  • Use a factor 50 sunscreen for young skin; the stress, pain and heat of sunburn is a sure way of triggering migraine.
  • Let your child know that it’s okay if they need to go back to the hotel, or if they need to get sick, or sleep or opt out of certain activities, and remember all that for yourself too
  • Be as relaxed as you can be in a potentially stressful activity of bringing children on holiday
  • If travelling with a young child or baby, pack extra in case of delays
  • Bring plenty of distractions and games, even DVDs for them to occupy themselves if necessary, or play travel games, sing songs that they like, etc


  • Many airports have a quiet area, prayer room or chapel, which are normally darker than the rest of the airport and much quieter. All ban the use of mobile phones.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help from the airport police or staff if you need it.
  • If you’re worried about being searched and the hassle of taking off your shoes and opening out your bags, 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
    • Keep jewellery and accessories to a minimum so you won’t have too much to take off going through security
    • Check all the hand luggage security requirements online before going to the airport to make sure you’re not carrying anything that might cause you to be stopped and searched

For information on facilities at your destination or returning airport, see their individual airport websites.


  • Take a look at the website of your particular carrier, be it airplane, ship, etc., and check if they have anything that might make your migraine risk worse – like strong LED lighting. Most airline or passenger ship companies have a ‘special assistance’ section on their websites. Aer Lingus have quite a good section on travelling with medical conditions
  • Many of the sites will also tell you whether or not medical Oxygen is available or allowed on board and if so in what capacities and quantities.
  • Talk to your doctor beforehand about medication or alternative treatments for motion sickness.
  • Keep hydrated: bring water with you everywhere.
  • Pack healthy snacks and bring them with you if possible so you’re not in danger of letting your blood sugar levels drop too far.
  • Let plenty of air into your car if travelling the country, even if it’s not that warm.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get there so you’re not rushing, so that 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
  • If travelling on a long-haul flight or train journey, don’t be afraid to get up, stretch a bit and walk about the place if possible
  • Think about taking an antihistamine before you board a plane, this can help with both pressure in the ears and head, may help you sleep, and might reduce the symptoms of jet-lag – always double check with your doctor though as some antihistamines work differently than others and some migraine medications already contain antihistamines such as pizotifen and Migraleve
  • 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 access to the toilet
  • Tell the cabin staff that you suffer from migraine and may require their help during the journey, they will more than likely be happy to help you
  • Consider trying some travel aids: some can help with nausea and others reduce the noise and help with air pressure.
    • Try using a neck pillow for comfort
    • Bring a cold or hot pack depending on which helps you more
    • Bring a sleep mask/eye mask
    • Bring polarised or precision tinted glasses to protect from glare of clouds and sunshine as well as cabin lights
    • Use ear plugs to drown out the noise
    • Use nose plugs or a dab of Vicks to mask odours
    • Bring earphones with you to supply you with relaxing music or an audiobook or anti-stress meditation


  • Keep an eye on the weather forecast for the area you’re travelling to and prepare yourself appropriately e.g. Hot and sunny day followed by a humid and thundery evening – download an app which can give a migraine weather forecast
  • Don’t allow yourself to sit in the sunshine for too long as this can dehydrate you and trigger a migraine, especially while drinking (if you can drink) – so try to get the best of all worlds, a sunny spot near shade and a bar, either of which you can retreat to if necessary.
  • When out and about in the sunshine, wear your sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat


  • 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
  • Buy all means don’t be afraid to experiment and try the local cuisine but keep an eye on other potential triggers. You may get away with food, a glass of wine, but over-activity or hot weather or any third trigger may tip you over your personal migraine threshold
  • Many migraineurs can tolerate organic wines, so if in a wine-growing region you may be lucky if you stick to the local wine and indeed the same goes for food
  • Tell your hotel, tour operator, airline etc., in advance if you think that may help you
  • Drink plenty of water and make sure you have access to water, especially in a hot climate


  • 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, and so make sure you factor in some ‘me time’.
  • 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.


If you’re an active person and plan on skiing, walking, hiking, or surfing, don’t overexert yourself. Know your limits.

  • Wind down slowly. Try to avoid the sudden stop, as the ‘let-down headache’ can be painful.
  • Keep your medication on you for handiness.
  • Wear protective sunglasses. Polarised lenses reduce the glare and wrap-around shades block the sun from sneaking in the corners of your eyes.
  • Make a packing checklist for days out, for example – hat, sunglasses, sun cream, water, medication, money and emergency contact phone numbers. Keep everything you need ready in a bag.
  • 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.