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Tried and tested: The best tips for avoiding migraines while travelling



Whether you’re planning a quick city break or week in the sun, the last thing you want to deal with is a migraine.

The mixture of stress, weather changes, cabin pressure, dehydration and lack of routine can all act as migraine triggers, which means that travel - whether it’s for work or pleasure - can become a bit of a chore.

If you suffer from migraines, you’re not alone. In fact, migraine is Ireland’s fifth leading cause of disability, affecting almost one in eight people [1].

It can affect people of all ages and genders; however, three out of every four sufferers are female and migraine is most often seen in females between the ages of 15- 49 [2].

A recent survey by Novartis, found that nine out of ten Irish people with frequent and severe migraines, are fearful of their next attack [3]. However, there are some things that you can do to help prevent them while travelling.

Be prepared

Holiday planning and travel in general can be stressful. Always factor in plenty of time to prepare before a trip. Pack your suitcase well in advance, check-in online and plan your route to the airport.

You should also consider bringing earplugs/noise-reducing headphones with you. Some people also like to carry eye masks, ginger sweets or drinks for nausea and cool packs to use if an attack starts. Find what items work for you and bring them on every trip. Preparation is the best way to avoid unnecessary stress.

Travel smart

There are certain things that you can do to make your travel experience more pleasant. If you’re travelling by train or bus, try to book your seat in advance so that you’re not travelling backward or sitting at the back of the bus where fumes and bad ventilation might affect your journey.

If you’re driving, make sure that you schedule in lots of breaks. Bring some water and food with you if you’re unsure of stops along the way. These little steps can make a huge difference to the overall experience.

Suss out your airport

Airports are often crowded and noisy, especially at this time of year. Keep an eye out for quiet areas that you can wait in. Many airports have sleep spaces, meditation areas or prayer rooms that can provide a calm, quiet environment.  

If smells are a trigger for you, avoid perfumed duty-free halls and food courts. Essential oil such as peppermint or eucalyptus can be helpful to block out overbearing smells plus, they can double up as a relief for sore neck muscles during an attack. 

Stay hydrated.

Staying hydrated is very important, especially if you’re flying, spending time in a hot country or participating in vigorous activities such as hiking or swimming.

Dehydration leads to tiredness and fatigue, which can prompt an attack.  Always carry a reusable water bottle with you and make sure that you drink plenty of fluids in the 24-hours before travelling. While an airport pint might be tempting, alcohol will make you dehydrated in the long run so give it a miss.


Seek out shade

Bright, direct sunlight is a common migraine trigger (even in Ireland). During daylight hours you should seek out shade or wear sunglasses with built-in UV protection.

If you’re reading by the pool or dining outside, always wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and eyes. If you feel a headache coming on, find a cooler, darker place indoors.

Don’t overdo it    

Whether you're going on a business trip, an adventure holiday, or just visiting family or friends, you may be tempted to try to fit in as much as possible, but too much activity can increase your risk of developing a migraine.

Try to stick to a daily routine with regular meals and not too many late nights. Remember if you feel like you need to rest, rest. It’s your holiday after all.

Keep a migraine diary

Keeping track of your migraines is very important. It is recommended that people keep a detailed headache diary so their migraine, and likely triggers, can be accurately identified and diagnosed for effective treatment.

For help in managing your migraine, download the free Migraine Buddy app, or you could contact the Migraine Association of Ireland for a copy of their migraine diary. There are also plenty of other supports and tools to help you at migraine.ie and speakyourmigraine.ie

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



[1] Vos T, et al. Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 310 diseases and injuries, 1990–2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015 The Lancet Volume 388, Issue 10053, 8–14 October 2016, Pages 1545-1602.

[2] The Irish College of General Practitioners. Migraine: Diagnosis and Management From A GP Perspective: Quick Reference Guide. Pages 2-28. 2019.

[3] Results are from a large-scale global patient and caregiver survey undertaken by Novartis in 2017 in partnership with the European Migraine and Headache Alliance. A total of 10,235 people in 36 countries participated. In Ireland, the survey involved 131 participants who were recruited from online panels and the patient organisation, the Migraine Association of Ireland who completed an online survey between September 2017 and February 2018. To participate patients must have had four or more migraine days each month within the previous three months.

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