19 Aug 2022

Don't let migraine be a pain on your travels

Handy tips on how to manage your migraine this summer and festival season


It’s that time of year when many of us gladly swap office chairs for sun loungers or festival tents. Sadly, that’s not the case for everyone. With stress, anxiety, weather changes and change of routine all listed as common triggers for those living with chronic migraine, travel for work or pleasure can literally be a pain.

Migraine is Ireland’s fifth leading cause of disability, affecting almost one in eight people.  Recently published results, of a survey by Novartis, of Irish people with frequent and severe migraine shows that nine out ten are fearful of their next attack.


Whether you’re heading to Dingle or Dubrovnik, these simple tips and actions can help to manage migraine pain on your travels:

·         Bright, direct sunlight is a common trigger. Wearing sunglasses at all times, including while driving. 

·         Dehydration leads to tiredness and fatigue, which can prompt an attack. Carry fluids at all times, including indoors, as many buildings are without air-conditioning.

·         Holiday planning and travelling itself can be stressful so give yourself plenty of time …and that includes not leaving suitcase packing to the last minute!

·         Keep to a planned daily routine with regular meals and not too many late nights.

·         Pace yourself.  Whether you’re sightseeing or attending a work dinner, opt out if you feel you need to rest instead. 

·         Migraine attacks can strike at any time.  Keep your medication to hand - a clear bag makes it easier to find and don’t forget to a copy of any prescriptions as backup. 

·         Schedule breaks on long drives, make sure to have water and food if unsure of stops along the route. 

·         If traveling by bus / train, book a seat in advance so you're not traveling backwards or sitting at the back of a bus with bad ventilation or diesel fumes

·         Keep an eye out for quiet areas of the airport to wait in. Many airports have sleep areas / meditation or prayer rooms that can provide a calm, quiet environment.  

·         Pack ear plugs / noise reducing headphones as well as an eye pillow, eye mask and medication / ginger sweets / drinks for nausea

·         Pack cool packs to use on your neck if an attack starts.  

·         It can be hard to avoid perfumed beauty halls and not so pleasant smells on a flight. If smells are a trigger, an essential oil such as peppermint or eucalyptus can be help to block them out plus, they can double up as relief for sore neck muscles during an attack. 

·         Drink plenty of water in the 24 hour period prior to travel day so you're well hydrated in advance of the trip and avoid alcohol

The Migraine Association of Ireland have a card you can carry explaining what you may need during an attack, which can be very helpful, for example, especially if your speech is affected. 

Dr Eddie O’ Sullivan, GP and Clinical Director of the Headache/Migraine Clinic, Cork University Hospital, recommends that people keep a detailed headache diary so their migraine, and likely triggers, can be accurately identified and diagnosed for effective treatment. Migraine diaries are available through the Migraine Association of Ireland or by downloading the free Migraine Buddy app. Other supports and resources are available on or from the Migraine Association’s website


Please be advised to talk to your doctor or pharmacist should you have any concerns about migraine management.

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