I have had a good period now with fairly few migraines, but a few days ago I had an attack again. Then I thought I had to write a post about travelling with migraine. It is something that I unfortunately know a lot about. Here are my best tips for those travelling with migraine - and for those who are travelling with someone with migraine.
Many years with migraines
I've had migraines since the age of 14, and at times it's something that limits my life a lot. When I get a full-blown attack, I'm out for days, in intense pain and unable to eat, drink or sleep. In between, I have many days of severe headaches or "light migraines".
I have tried most of the available treatments and have learnt a lot about what can trigger a seizure and what I can do to avoid disaster. Travelling is really not the best thing to do, as you are constantly exposing yourself to risks such as lack of sleep, irregular eating times and stress. But I refuse to stop travelling! I know I'm far from alone in suffering from migraines. Here are my top tips for coping with travelling. Do you have any other good tips?
1. Get the right medicines
This may sound obvious, but it is not. There are many different medications for migraine and the field is constantly evolving. What works for one person is not the same as what works for someone else. My best advice is to have a proper assessment by a neurologist.
I have recently tried a preventive medicine (Amlodopine Teva) which helps me a lot. In addition, I eat always contraceptive pills (i.e. without interruption once a month). The reason for this is to avoid hormone changes and there are no scientific evidence that you need to take a break once a month, although some midwives seem to think so.
If I have a mild ongoing headache I take Treo, if I have a severe ongoing headache I take Treo Comp and if I already have a migraine I take Zomig nasal spray. This is a combination that seems to work pretty well for me.
2. Try other treatments
Besides medication, there are some other treatments that can work, including relaxation, acupuncture and botox injections. None of these worked for me, but maybe they can work for you?
Other things that can reduce the number and intensity of seizures are: sleeping and eating regularly, not drinking too much alcohol, avoiding trigger foods (such as red wine, cheese, chocolate or citrus fruits), not stressing too much, being physically active (at the right level) and making sure you wear the right strength glasses.
3. Pack your medicines in your hand luggage.
If you are flying, it is wise to pack your medicines in your hand luggage. Firstly, you may need them while travelling and secondly, there is a risk that your checked baggage will be delayed.
If you are taking narcotic medicines abroad, you may need to check the rules that apply. Within Schengen, you may need a certificate, which Apoteket will help you print. If you are travelling outside Schengen, you may need to check the rules with the embassy of the country concerned.
4. Bring enough medicine - and the packaging.
If you are going to be travelling for a long time, it is a good idea to bring enough medicine for the whole trip. It is not at all certain that the medicine you need is available in the country you are travelling to. For example, one of my medicines ran out in Croatia and we had to get in the campervan and drive for several hours to Bosnia, as that was the closest country that had my medicine...
If you still need to buy new medicines abroad, it is good to have the original packaging with you. Medicines have different names in different countries, but if your doctor can see the list of ingredients, he/she can identify the local medicine that best matches the one you are taking.
5. Try to sleep properly
One problem when travelling is that sleep can be disrupted and irregular. Try to sleep properly before you start travelling. It's also a good idea to bring things to help you sleep on the plane or in the car, such as earplugs, a sleeping mask and a neck pillow.
6. Drink water
It is not good to be dehydrated. On aeroplanes, the air may be dry or you may be in a country where it is warmer than at home. Buy water as often as you can, keep a bottle in your bag and drink, drink!
7. eat when you get the chance
Another thing that often becomes irregular when travelling is eating. For many migraine sufferers, this is not good at all... Make sure you have some 'emergency energy' in your hand luggage, such as a sandwich, biscuit chocolate or a banana. When you get the chance to buy something to eat - do it! My motto (based on experience) is "you never know when you'll get food next time".
8. planning air in the schedule
If there's one thing that can give you a migraine, it's stress and lack of sleep. Don't book any activities as soon as you arrive! Keep your schedule flexible so that there is always time to rest, eat or sleep.
9. ask for ice - and not to be disturbed
If you stay in a hotel, you can always ask for a bag of ice. It usually helps me to put some ice on my head when I'm trying to sleep, and many hotels have helped me with that ... Then just put the sign that you don't want to be disturbed outside the hotel room! If you're travelling by motorhome, it's good to always have an ice pack in the freezer.
10. Here's how you can help!
It is very nice that you want to offer an alvedone, but if alvedone had helped against migraines, no one would have had migraines. Those who have migraines probably have their own (much stronger) medication and if they still get migraines - it is because the medication does not help. Moreover, by the time you tell them, it has usually gone quite far. When you have a migraine, you're used to being in pain, and you don't like to tell people unnecessarily. You can hardly cure migraines, but there are still things you can do!
When I have a migraine, I am incredibly grateful for practical help. It can be anything from carrying a heavy bag to going to the shops for a bottle of water. I am also grateful if you help me not to feel guilty. When you have a migraine and can't participate, you often feel like you are "spoiling" and "boring". If you tell me that it's okay for me to be alone in the hotel room for a few hours and that you'll be fine for that long, it's often easier to relax.