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Traveling with Migraines - Potential Triggers



Travel is a perfect storm of factors that can trigger attacks in even those who do not frequently get migraines. The travel might be by car, boat, bus, train, or while flying, and all of these involve potential triggers. Travel can cause a migraine attack because there are so many potential triggers involved.


The migraine brain likes routine: including regular sleep-wake cycles, regular stress levels, eating timetables, exercise, and movement. Travel is a disruption to the routine for most people, and significant disruptions can cause an attack in those vulnerable.

  • Stress. The stress of planning, packing, keeping track of children, running on time, delays due to missed connections is enough to trigger a migraine. Migraines can also be caused by a sudden change of stress, when you arrive at your holiday destination and your stress level suddenly drops.

  • Sleep. A migraine brain likes a regular sleep schedule and a certain amount of sleep. Time zone changes and jet lag can be a risky time for migraines.

  • Food. We are often out of our routine and eat unfamiliar food when traveling. Often in a rush, we grab a quick bite to eat or have rich celebratory meals, desserts and alcohol. We may eat processed food without knowing it, a strong migraine trigger for some people. Missed meals can also trigger migraines.

  • Noise. Traveling is rarely quiet. Overhead announcements, engines, and loud voices can be irritants for those sensitive to noise.

  • Odors. Strong odors are everywhere. Cigarette smoke, overly strong perfumes, engine fumes, etc. can trigger a migraine in those sensitive to smell.

  • Pressure. Atmospheric changes that come from changes in altitude, such as flying or traveling over mountains. Changes in climate, temperature, air pressure, or even humidity may all act as potential triggers for those vulnerable.

  • Dehydration. Dehydration is one of the most common health problems of passengers flying and is also a migraine trigger. Altered schedules can cause us to forget to drink water as often as usual. Additionally, dehydration can occur due to a lack of humidity in the air in airplanes.

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