8 tips to avoid holiday headaches


holiday headache

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Ah, the holidays. For many they are a time for family, friends and celebration. They can also usher in a world of stress, which can manifest itself in an assortment of ways, including migraine and tension-type headaches.

Migraine and tension-type headaches are two types of primary headaches — a benign, recurrent headache that is not the result of an underlying disease, according to the National Headache Foundation. Individuals who suffer from migraine and tension-type headache can be susceptible to triggers such as stress, smells and food that cause or worsen the pain.

Not surprisingly, the holiday season is a difficult time for headache and migraine sufferers to avoid all the potential triggers. Don’t let pain ruin your holiday. Check out the following eight tips from the National Headache Foundation on how to avoid holiday headaches this season:

  1. Maintain your regular sleep schedule. Those late-night parties can negatively affect anyone's health, especially those with chronic headaches and migraine. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. Make sure you get your regular amount of sleep, eight hours being the ideal.
  2. Maintain your regular meal schedule. Too often, we skip meals as we travel from mall to mall, or are cooking and cleaning in preparation for a big celebration. If you can't stop for a regular meal, try having a nutritious snack.
  3. Moderation is the key to avoiding hangover headaches. If you opt to have that festive cocktail, sip your drink slowly. Mixed drinks containing fruit or vegetable choices (think Bloody Mary) may have less negative effects than straight alcohol. For migraine sufferers, red wine is a well-known culprit so a glass of white wine is preferable.
  4. Watch that diet! Offerings at those holiday parties may look delicious but may contain foods that trigger headaches, such as ripened cheese, chocolate and processed meats. Some sensitive individuals should avoid food items containing MSG or low-cal beverages with aspartame. Monitor your caffeine intake. The cold weather may encourage stopping for a hot cocoa but think twice before ordering.
  5. As you sprint through those crowded stores, be aware of odors that may cause headaches, such as perfume and smoke or even the smell of freshly baked treats or pine from fresh holiday decorations.
  6. If you are traveling, make sure you have sufficient amounts of your headache medicine. You do not want to find yourself without your prescription medications on Christmas or New Year's Day. For those who experience headaches when traveling by plane or vacationing in mountainous regions, discuss the situation with your healthcare provider. Preventive remedies are available to avoid the “altitude" headache.
  7. Wear your sunglasses at night — if the bright Christmas lights trigger a headache. In addition to the illumination caused by the decorations, some tree lights flicker, which can easily trigger a migraine.
  8. Try to take a break from the stress by setting aside some “you” time so you can take a break from the festivities.