Holiday headache triggers

Author: Jodi Mohrmann, Managing editor of special projects, jmohrmann@wjxt.com
Published On: Dec 04 2013 10:03:02 PM EST

The sights, sounds, and smells of the holiday season are welcomed by most, but for some it triggers headaches.  Dr. Stewart Tepper treats headache patients at Cleveland Clinic and says they're called "holiday headaches."

"The way to think about holiday migraines and holiday headaches is that there are a variety of triggers that can precipitate migraine in someone who is susceptible to migraine and it's not just one thing," said Tepper.  "It's the combination of all of the things."

Tepper says stress levels are typically higher during the holidays and stress is a migraine trigger. Throw in other triggers like a lack of sleep or alcohol, and people who are already susceptible to migraines put themselves at risk.

"And if you lay all of these potential triggers on top of each other and then are subjected to one of the usual triggers of smell, meaning perfume, incense, those kinds of things, smoke, those kinds of things. It's going to trigger an attack," warned Tepper.

He says regular aerobic exercise can help reduce stress levels, which can help ward off an attack. Tepper says it's also important to get enough sleep. But, if you know you're going into a situation where potential triggers exist, Tepper says be sure to have your medications with you.

"Simply have the medicines in your back pocket, so that if you are subject to a trigger you immediately take the acute treatment, the "as-needed" treatment and don't be shy about it," he added. "Don't be bashful and don't wait to see if the migraine is going to develop, but get right on top of it early."

Tepper says an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, so thinking about it in advance is a better approach than trying to catch-up after a headache has been triggered.