Six Ways Parents Can Prevent Migraine Fallout

Six Ways Parents Can Prevent Migraine Fallout

By Charlotte Falkner Published at August 11, 2016 Views 1,674

Parenting on its best days can be challenge. Parenting when you have an active migraine can seem almost unbearable.

According the Migraine Research Foundation, approximately 14 million people suffer from migraine headaches on a near-daily basis. That means that one in four households—perhaps one out of every four houses on your street—could have someone who struggles with migraines. Many of these individuals are raising children. While a predisposition to migraines does not necessarily mean parents experience more migraines, here are six proven ways to address migraine triggers than are often overlooked when you have children.

Above all, sleep. Anywhere, anytime. As every parent since the beginning of time can tell you, sleep becomes both the center of the universe and the most elusive goal when you have a child. Sleep and the pursuit of sleep may drive your entire schedule, and your access to it depends on your child’s ability to get it. As a migraineur, you know how sleep (or lack of it) affects your likelihood of getting a migraine. For this reason, sleep is even more important for parents who also happen to be migraine sufferers. If you are fortunate enough to have a partner to share the watch duties, try to set a specific sleep schedule for yourself and stick to it. Also, while your children are young, it may be a good idea to set aside a temporary, separate sleeping space for yourself that is as quiet as possible (i.e., farthest from the noisiest parts of your house). You cannot underestimate the value of good-quality sleep in migraine prevention. If, however, you are a single parent, the age-old technique of getting in the habit of sleeping whenever you child sleeps is your best bet. Mastering the art of sleeping at the drop of a hat may seem unnatural and inconvenient at first, but it may be the only thing standing between you and a severe migraine attack.

Work hard to develop a dependable and understanding migraine support network. This is a good idea not only because it is common sense in the event of general emergencies, but also because migraine sufferers never really know when or where a migraine will happen. The phrase to keep in mind here is, “bench depth.” Start building your list now. Family members, friends, neighbors, church members, and other parents are excellent backup resources. Some people even have success joining migraine-specific support groups where members truly understand each other’s needs (social media is extremely useful for this). Get good at asking for help when you need it; knowing who you can lean on in a pinch will give you invaluable peace of mind. Like anything that takes you out of your comfort zone, though, you should expect it may be somewhat difficult at first. It may help to remember that most people want to help each other, and given the chance, others will eagerly and cheerfully help you out.

Take the time to take care of yourself, too. With all of the time and effort you put into taking care of your kids, if you suffer from migraines you must ensure that you are paying at least as much attention to your own health needs as you are to theirs. As busy as you are feeding, dressing, playing, and running after your child, it is incredibly easy to let your own health care slip through the cracks, with behaviors like grabbing a candy bar instead of a salad, or drinking a few glasses of wine at night when the baby finally goes down instead of getting to bed early. In addition to getting enough sleep, stay vigilant for familiar migraine triggers in your diet, including sneaky, “frenemy” ones like caffeine. Eating right, staying hydrated, and keeping your body healthy—even if it seems inconvenient at the time—will help you avoid potential migraines and take better care of your kids’ health, too. Try keeping a migraine journal to see if you can find patterns in your migraine causes or frequencies. Recording what you eat, when you exercise and sleep, and your overall health may yield helpful clues when you look back on the days when you had migraines.

Learn how to handle your stress better. No one will deny that parenthood is sometimes stressful, nor will anyone deny that stress is a very common migraine trigger. WebMD states that, “Migraine sufferers are generally found to be more emotional and highly affected by stressful events. During stressful events certain chemicals in the brain are released to combat the situation. The release of these chemicals can provoke blood vessel changes that can cause migraine headaches.”

Although it is easier said than done, paying attention to these factors and exercising and meditating regularly can contribute to a more restful, relaxed state of mind and fewer migraines. In extreme cases of stress, consider cognitive therapy to help you learn ways to reduce stressors that are too overwhelming for you to face on your own. Remember that children pick up on (and sometimes mirror) your state of mind. Any improvements you can make on how to deal with your problems might also give them helpful templates they can apply to their own lives later. Win-win!

Explain your situation to those who need to know beforehand. Even though most migraine sufferers would rather not discuss the subject at all, if you are a parent it is a good idea to let certain people know that your condition may come into play from time to time in the care of your child. For example, let your child’s teachers and school administrators know of your condition and identify any alternate people (e.g., parents, spouse, neighbors, friends, etc.) who may be authorized to deal with your child on your behalf in the event you are ill or hospitalized. Prepare a written note explaining all of this that can be included in your child’s file. That way there will be no question if a long time passes before issues arise, or the person you spoke to is unavailable. Most importantly, don’t forget to explain the potential situation to your children as well—sudden changes can be scary and confusing to kids.

Forgive yourself if your child develops migraines too. Unfortunately, there is a growing body of scientific evidence to suggest migraines are inherited, and more and more doctors see children of migraineurs suffer from migraines. The Daily Mail reports an American Journal of Human Genetics study found, “children whose mothers suffered from headaches had double the risk of migraines when they grew up.” To reach these results, Dr. Aarno Palotie and his team analyzed blood from 50 families with three or more members with migraines. Even though the study is small, there is also a recent study from Denmark that reports a similar trend. As with any potential genetic trait, you can’t know everything you may pass on to your child. Since migraines can begin presenting themselves at any age, the best thing you can do is be alert to the signs and help deal with the condition should the need arise. But don’t waste valuable time fretting and obsessing over whether you have passed on your “migraine gene.” It is more important to enjoy every minute of your child’s life instead. And, if your child is diagnosed with migraine, remember not to beat yourself up. Be grateful instead that through your own experiences you have already been given all the tools you need to help them deal with it.

Neither parenting nor migraines are for the faint of heart. Be proud of yourself for enduring both, and thriving in spite of the daily challenges they continue to throw at you. With just a little forethought and the advice presented here, you might be able to avoid some of the migraines that would rob you of precious time with your family.

For more on parenting and migraines:

11 Surprising Migraine Triggers
More evidence supports that kids' headaches increase at back-to-school time
Study identifies when headaches during pregnancy may be cause for concern

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