Learn more about migraine in the summer and steps you can take to help minimize migraine attacks during the warmest months of the year.
While a summer activity like a day at the beach with family can be a wonderful experience, long days in the hot sun could trigger a migraine attack and cut into summertime fun. How can you help yourself reduce the chances of an attack? Plan accordingly to avoid triggers and get the most out of your summer. Read on to learn more.
Why do I get more migraine attacks in the summer?
The short and infuriating answer is that it really depends on you and your migraine. But what we do know is that the migraine brain hates change, and that includes the changing seasons. Everyone’s triggers are different, but lack of sleep, changes in routine, drinking alcohol and too much sun exposure are common triggers that are rampant in the summertime. Here are some tips to help set you up for success and reduce your chances of a summer migraine:
- Wear a sun hat and stay in the shade.
- Take breaks in air conditioning often, and always have water available.
- Pack travel chairs with built-in sun shades for your camping trip or beach vacation.
- Wear sunglasses that block harmful UV rays to reduce eye strain. Polarized lenses also reduce glare.
- Moderate how much alcohol you drink and bring your own non-alcoholic beverage to gatherings so you have options.
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule (keeping the same sleep and wake times) and avoid packing too many tiring activities into one day or weekend.
Can dehydration cause migraine?
You betcha! Dehydration is a big factor when living with migraine. Alcoholic drinks and too much time in the summer heat can dry you out quickly. Drinking water or water mixed with electrolytes is best to stay hydrated. According to the Mayo Clinic, the average person should drink 2.7-3.7 liters of water per day. If you’re out in extreme heat or humidity, the amount should increase accordingly.
Heavy exercise can also trigger an attack. When exercising, include a warm-up and cool-down period. Save heavy workouts for the coolest time of the day, or work out in air conditioning. Drink water throughout your exercise, and when in doubt take a break.
Summertime Travel and Migraine
Travel can be stressful and interrupt sleep and mealtimes. Planning for possible triggers and packing your migraine essentials may save you the stress of dealing with migraine. On travel day, be sure to continue advocating for yourself, whether it’s by taking frequent breaks on a road trip or standing up and stretching your legs on a plane ride. And when you arrive at your destination, don’t forget to pace yourself even if it’s tempting to pack your schedule with activities. “Making the most of your vacation” doesn’t mean doing everything, it means taking every day at your own pace so you can truly relax and enjoy yourself.
Know Your Migraine Triggers
No one understands your migraine better than you. As the weather heats up, be aware of how these seasonal changes in temperature and humidity affect your attacks. If you feel a migraine attack coming on, remember that taking acute medication early on is the best plan. Find an air conditioned place to recover and sip on some ice water. If possible, dim the lights and take some time for yourself to get back on track. You can also put a wet towel around your neck to help keep cool. Remember, self-care is essential for handling a migraine.
Tips for Minimizing Migraine During the Summer
Reducing changes to your body when your routine is interrupted helps prevent migraine attacks. Stay on a regular sleep and meal schedule as much as possible. Get enough rest and eat healthy foods at your usual times to reduce stress on your body. Go easy on yourself; it’s okay not to do “all the things.”
- Be mindful of strong fragrances in products like sunscreen or tanning lotion. Choose a fragrance-free option to reduce the chance of triggering a migraine.
- Keep an eye on the weather patterns in your area. Pressure and humidity changes may trigger an attack.
- Stay cool as much as possible, whether it’s staying indoors or running errands during the cooler parts of the day.
- Make a plan. Kids are home for the summer, and it may be challenging to make enough time for yourself. Set up a plan with a friend or family member in case you do get a migraine attack. Maybe they could take the kids out to a movie while you lay down, or they can have a sleepover.
While you cannot leave your migraine at home while on vacation, planning and being proactive with self-care can make a huge difference. Make plans, but also remember it’s okay if things need to change due to migraine. Keeping yourself healthy and happy will make those around you happy too. It’s impossible to avoid every migraine attack. Still, planning and having a system in place if you have a migraine attack makes a tremendous difference.
The American Migraine Foundation is committed to improving the lives of those living with this debilitating disease—but we can’t do it alone. Donate today to help support migraine research. Together, we are as relentless as migraine.
Reviewed for accuracy by the American Migraine Foundation’s subject matter experts, headache specialists and medical advisers with deep knowledge and training in headache medicine. Click here to read about our editorial board members.