Outdoor concerts and migraine

Tips for enjoying summertime outdoor concerts and festivals without worrying (too much) about migraine

I love music, and I love concerts.  Every year, like clockwork, the outdoor concerts/festivals start popping up as soon as the weather turns warm.  In this post, I’m going to tell you how I have been able to manage my migraine disease while also making sure I see and hear as much live music as I’m able.
Even if you don’t last the entire time, worry not. You can still have a blast and take care of yourself.
Without further ado, here’s my list of tips for enjoying summertime outdoor concerts and festivals without worrying (too much) about migraine.

1. Do your research.

Where will the festival take place?  Poke around on the festival’s website to learn about the site and its environs, and seek tips from people who’ve been in the past.  Ask friends and/or past attendees what the setup was like: were there water stations set up? Are there shady areas? Are there nearby businesses with air conditioning that will be safe havens for you when you need to cool off?  Is there a convenience store or drugstore in the area so you can purchase anything you might have forgotten?
If you live nearby, try to drive yourself to the festival so you can get out of there when you need to. If you’re staying out of town, have the number of a reputable cab company at the ready if you need to go back to the hotel.  (If you’re crashing at someone’s house, ask your host in advance if you can carry your own key to their home in case you need to leave before the rest of the group is ready to go.)

2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
A) Starting 3 days before the festival/concert: It goes without saying that you should pretty much be drinking water all day long no matter the weather, but I’ll say it again: always have water on you.  In the days leading up to the concert, double-up on your water intake to get your body in the best shape possible.

B) The 12 hours leading up to your departure: The night before, make sure you have plenty of ice on hand.  No ice maker in your house? Simply fill up a bunch of ice cube trays.  The morning of the show, set yourself up with at least two reusable water bottles. Start by putting ice cubes in, then follow up with water.  Put them in your bag (preferably in a separate compartment with a towel so the inevitable condensation doesn’t affect your other items.

C) During the event: Never let more than a couple of minutes pass without drinking water. Any time I pass a sink, water fountain, or hydration station (which many festivals have), I refill my bottle even if it’s only half-empty. Chug, chug, chug.

3. Have everything you need with you.
Make sure you have the following items in your bag
-water bottles (see above)
-any prescriptions & OTC meds you might need (I always have one kind of triptan plus my naproxen sodium on hand)
-your mobile phone
-an ice pack to help cool you down if you get overheated (make sure it’s pre-frozen—keeping it next to your water bottles works to keep everything cooler for a longer period)
-earplugs (foam ones work well for me in the short-term, but if I’m going to be at a multi-hour event, I get the more malleable silicon ones that block sound better with less discomfort).
-sunblock (preferably in an even higher number than you think you need)
-a comfortable hat (nothing too tight) with a large brim to block the sun
-simple snacks (almonds, fruit strips, and energy bars are my favorites)

4. Be cognizant of how you’re feeling.
One an hour (or more frequently if necessary), try to find a place to sit in the shade even if you’re feeling great!). Cool down, reapply sunblock if necessary, and drink some water.  Check in with yourself, and do some deep breathing, focusing on potentially problematic areas of your body: make sure you relax your back, your neck, and your head. Do some neck rolls and take it easy for a few minutes. How are you feeling?

5. Wear your earplugs.
I know you think it’s not that loud, but it is. Anytime you’re at a venue with speakers, chances are the sound is cranked higher than your sensitive brain likes. Even if you’re rocking out and having fun and don’t anticipate a migraine, please put those earplugs in (trust me—I have learned this the hard way).
6. Don’t be afraid to close/shield your eyes when the lights get crazy.
During the day, this may not be as much of an issue (especially since you’re wearing the hat you brought, right?). But as the sky gets darker, the stage lights get brighter.  The bigger the festival/venue, the fancier the light setup and the better the chance the lighting designer is going to get crazy with the flashing lights, strobes, etc.  When the fancy lights get going, just close your eyes and drop your head. You can keep dancing and having fun all you want, but protect your migraine brain by protecting your eyes from the lights. (Again: trust me on this one—been there, done that.)

7. Don’t drink alcohol.
You may ignore this one, and that’s okay (as long as you hydrate—see #2). But hear me out. You are outdoors. In the summer. Probably in the sun. With tons of people. Getting dehydrated. Alcohol will dehydrate you even faster than usual in the summer, and since you’re outdoors and surrounded by others and leeching water in the form of stinky sweat, consider skipping it.  (If you really do want to drink, please consider having at least two full glasses of water with every alcoholic beverage you consume.)

8. Don’t forget to eat.
Remember those snacks in your bag? Eat ‘em! And make sure you schedule in time to have as close to a “real” meal as you can, even if it means missing one of the outdoor acts.

9. Notice when you’re starting to fade.
If you’re anything like me, you might ignore the warning signs because you’re having fun.  Please don’t wait until you’re totally smacked down with migraine before you get out of there. If you notice any of your early warning signs, go sit somewhere in the shade and decide what your next move is.  (This tip goes hand-in-hand with tip #4 above.)

10. Know when to call it a day (or night).
Your routine is very important for migraine management. Your body is probably extra-wired after this atypical day, so please don’t overdo it.  When it gets close to bedtime, start thinking about calling it a night.

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