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Migraines, Kids, and Holidays

I remember counting down the days until school holidays only to have some of them spoiled by Migraines. Not as much was known about Migraines then, and I don’t remember anyone talking about or trying to figure out what triggered these Migraines. Looking back, I think it was probably staying up late and sleeping in.

Most of us can’t avoid all Migraines, but we need to consider that some of the very things children and teens look forward to can trigger Migraines and make those school breaks and holidays less enjoyable. If we know what they are, however, maybe some of those Migraines can be avoided. Here are a few things to consider:

Sleep Schedule

Sleep issues can be very strong triggers. Those issues include:

  • Irregular sleep schedules: It’s recommended that Migraineurs get up and go to bed at the same time every day, including weekends, holidays, and vacations.
  • Too much or too little sleep: Either one can be a trigger for someone whose body is sensitive to sleep.
  • Disrupted sleep: Waking up during the night can wreak havoc with sleep quality.
  • Poor quality sleep: Even people who think they sleep well may not be getting good quality sleep. This can be due to sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, periodic limb movement disorder, and others. It can also be due to simpler things such as leaving lights on in the bedroom, the temperature in the bedroom, or needing to replace pillows or the mattress on the bed.

Waking up with a Migraine is often a clue that the trigger is sleep-related.

Meal Schedule and Trigger Foods

  • Meal schedule: It’s easy for meals to get off schedule during holiday and vacation periods. Missing meals or longer times between meals can both be Migraine triggers.
    • Stick as close as you can to a “normal” schedule. Some families tend to have holiday meals mid-afternoon or later in the evening. If you’re planning big family meals as holiday celebrations, and an irregular meal schedule is a trigger, family members need to understand that meals will be at regular meal times.
    • Keep nutritious snacks available in case of delays. The best laid plans can get sidetracked. Count on it. If something unavoidable happens to delay a meal, having nutritious snacks on hand can save the day.
    • Trigger foods: Some Migraineurs have food triggers; others don’t. If we do, they can sneak up on us.
      • Identifying food triggers: Identifying food triggers can be tricky, especially since the Migraine can occur up to 48 hours after the food is eaten. If there’s a question about foods, an elimination diet is the best way to determine if any foods are triggers. (see link below)
      • Avoiding food triggers: Once food triggers have been identified, then comes the issue of avoiding them. For simple foods, that can be relatively easy; but when it’s an ingredient used in other foods, it can be more difficult. Most people tend to indulge during holidays and vacations. If your child has food triggers, you may have to explain more than once why you don’t want him or her to eat something that’s going to trigger a Migraine. Finding substitutes that they like can be helpful.


Dehydration is a fairly common Migraine trigger.

  • If traveling by car, try keeping a small cooler with water and other drinks in the car.
  • If flying, try to have enough time to get some water or another drink once you pass security check points.
  • Remember that caffeine can be dehydrating. Caffeinated beverages shouldn’t be the only source of hydration; they should be limited.

Those Migraines that do happen

No matter how well kids’ Migraine triggers are managed, it’s unlikely that all Migraines can be avoided. Some triggers such as weather changes aren’t avoidable, and everyone occasionally has a bad night. That means we should always be prepared to treat a Migraine.

  • Fill that prescription: If prescription medications are used when a Migraine occurs, be sure to keep the prescription filled. If medications are used infrequently, tablets and capsules can be frozen to suspend the expiration date. Liquid and injectable medications can be stored in the refrigerator to suspend the expiration dates on them. This can save throwing away costly prescription medications.
  • Don’t run out of over-the-counter medications. These too can be stored in the freezer or refrigerator if they’re not used enough to avoid expiration.
  • Keep comfort measures and non-medicinal tools ready. Cold packs, a blanket, peppermint for nausea… most Migraineurs have items such as these that make us more comfortable or even relieve some of the symptoms without medications. An easy way to be sure these are always available is to keep as many of them as possible in a tote bag or backpack so the items can be found easily and quickly. This also makes it easier to take them when traveling.

Wrapping it up

Holidays, school breaks, vacations, and other times when routines are altered can present different and additional Migraine triggers. Identifying those triggers and planning in advance may reduce the number of Migraines.

Advance planning can also reduce the impact of Migraines by allowing you to treat them quickly. Studies have shown that medications taken for Migraines work best when taken early in the Migraine attack.

For additional information and a video about Migraines and sleep, please check this page: Migraines, Kids, and Holidays: Additional Info.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


    8 years ago

    ‘Tis the season for spring break and school vacations! We thought it would be helpful to re-visit some posts with tips for managing migraines during the holidays.

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