For people who have migraine, it is obvious that migraine is much more than just a headache disorder. People who have migraine may be sensitive to light, sound, smells, movement and also may note a variety of triggers for their migraines. As we approach the summer months, it is important to keep in mind some helpful tips to avoid migraines and headaches.
Don’t let yourself get dehydrated, even a little.
This is important all year, but especially in the summer. You may hear or see news reports warning about dehydration and heat stroke. Heed them. Dehydration is a major headache and migraine trigger for many people.
What you drink can make a difference, too. Soda or iced tea, although summer favorites, can have a great deal of caffeine. Water or electrolyte-containing beverages are always good choices!
Be respectful and careful of the sun.
Summer sun can be one of our worst enemies, and I’m not talking about sunburn, even though that can be a problem. Too much time in the summer sun is another serious headache and migraine trigger. That doesn’t mean we have to stay indoors. Try hats with broad brims that keep sun off your neck and upper chest and back as well as your face. Beach umbrellas can be great at ball games and the like. You can also cool yourself down with a spray bottle of water or a cold, wet bandana around your neck.
Beware of fragrance in summer products.
Are you sensitive to fragrances and/or other odors? Remember that when shopping for sunscreen, insect repellent, and other summer products. Look for fragrance-free products. If you’re not sure about chemical names listed in the ingredients, your pharmacist may be able to help you.
Don’t get caught without your sunglasses.
Summer can be tough on the eyes. Invest in some good sunglasses. Polarized lenses are great because, in addition to darkening, they cut glare. If you can go for optical grade lenses, do. They aren’t as likely to produce distortion as inexpensive sunglasses. Still troubled by light from around your glasses? Try a baseball cap or another type of hat to block out the sun that comes in from above the sunglasses.
Try not to stray too far from your routine.
It’s easy to get off schedule in the summer. It gets dark later. Things seem a bit lazier. Don’t let that lull you into getting off your schedule for meals and sleep. Even on vacation, be careful not to skip meals, and try to resist the temptation to indulge in trigger foods. Try to keep your sleep schedule regular, too. Both too much and too little sleep can be a trigger for some people.
Take care of your medications.
Be aware that medications have storage temperature ranges that can easily be exceeded by summer temperatures. Prolonged exposure to higher temperatures can make your meds less effective. When traveling, keep your meds in your carry-on rather than letting it go with the luggage on a plane and in the car with you rather than in the trunk in your luggage. At home, keep your meds in a cool, dark place.
Check your exercise routine.
If you exercise outdoors or don’t have air conditioning, you may need to modify your exercise routine for the summer. Summer offers options for exercise that aren’t available in the winter. If you have questions about what forms of exercise are most appropriate for you, check with your doctor.
Plan ahead so stress doesn’t bring on headaches or exacerbate your migraine triggers. Make lists. Delegate chores to family members. Make travel reservations well in advance. Be sure your car is serviced before traveling. Mark prescription refill times on your calendar so you don’t run out of meds.
Don’t skimp on time for yourself.
Too often, we’re so busy taking care of our families or thinking about our jobs that we put off taking time for ourselves. Please take a few seconds to consider this: If we’re not at our best, how can we give our best? Take time to relax. Look around your home to see how it could be more “headache and migraine friendly.” Do your best to take at least 30 minutes of me time each day to meditate, pray, journal, workout or just be quiet—whatever you need. This will help you stay healthier, and staying healthier will help your body resist headache and migraine triggers.
Wrapping it up.
There’s no sure way to avoid every headache or migraine, but we can take steps to minimize them and their impact. It is important to be observant of triggers but not obsessive about triggers, as sometimes just the stress of trying to avoid triggers can lead to headaches. Summer is a time with many opportunities for family and fun, vacations and getaways. When we take care of ourselves, we can keep more of the fun in summer. Enjoy!
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.