Reduce the impact of Migraines
No matter how effective our preventive regimen is, we’re going to be struck with a Migraine from time to time.
To make those Migraines easier to deal with, let’s form a Migraine Action Plan and Pack, let’s MAPP them.
Here are the elements of the Plan…
- You and your doctor should have a treatment plan in place. For most Migraineurs, your first-line medication when you have a Migraine will be a triptan (Imitrex, Maxalt, Zomig, Amerge, Relpax, Axert, Frova). Some take other medications such as an antinausea medication or NSAID with it. Whatever your doctor has recommended, part of your Plan is being sure you have your medications on hand. In addition to your abortive medications, be sure you have your rescue medications on hand as well. Hopefully you won’t need them, but if you do, the last thing you want to discover is that you don’t have them. For more information about the different types of medications see Preventive, Abortive, and Rescue Medications - What’s the Difference?
- For those Migraines that strike at home, have a place you can rest as comfortably as possible prepared in advance. For some tips on this, take a look at Make Your Home Friendly During a Migraine.
- If you sometimes need help from someone outside your home during a Migraine, be sure their phone numbers are near your phone or programmed into the phone. Remembering those numbers during a Migraine may not be possible.
- Do you sometimes have to go to the ER for a severe Migraine? We have forms that can be filled out in advance to make this easier. See Emergency Migraine and Headache Care - Forms To Help. You may or may not need both of the forms available. The form for patients to fill out has your insurance and contact information. It can speed things up and make life easier to be able to give this to the person in registration. The other form can be helpful if your ER doesn’t know what to do for you or is suspicious of people coming in for Migraine. Your doctor can fill that out for you. Be sure to make copies of this one rather than giving away the original.
- Do you have young children who may need to be kept occupied when you have a Migraine? Get a storage box and pack it with crayons, coloring books, puzzles, whatever items work for your children. Keep it stocked and somewhere it can be easily accessed.
- What can you eat and drink during a Migraine? Plan ahead and be sure that you’re always stocked with these groceries.
- Want to be sure your family has nutritional meals even when you’re down with a Migraine? Cook double quantities, then freeze meals for them. This can work especially well with soups. Fix a big pot, then freeze meals or individual portions in freezer bags. When you’re down, it’s easy for someone to thaw and heat these meals.
- Whether you’re at home or traveling, what makes you comfortable during a Migraine? That leads us to…
Possible parts of the Pack:
When you have a headache or a Migraine, there are things you truly need. Aren’t there also things you want? I mean just want them – for comfort? Of course there are, and making yourself more comfortable does more than indulge yourself. Being as comfortable and relaxed as possible can actually help our treatments work better.
Putting your hands on those things is difficult when your head is pounding, and all you want to do is shut the world out and lie down. It’s even more difficult when you travel. Many of us hesitate to travel if our Migraines and/or headaches aren’t well controlled. That’s a perfectly normal feeling. When we don’t feel well, we tend to want to be at home with the things we want and are used to close to us.
To make Migraine and headache days simpler and more comfortable, whether I’m at home or traveling, I’ve put together a MAPP bag. I keep it filled with the things I need on those days with the exception of medications. When I travel, I add my medications to it. Below are some suggestions of items to include in your MAPP bag…
Start by choosing a bag that will hold the items you need, one that you’re not using for anything else. That way, you can leave it packed and ready for use. Lightweight is good. There are some very durable crushed nylon bags available that weigh next to nothing.
Another issue to consider when choosing your bag is accessibility. How easy is it to get things out of it? You may want to avoid bags with buckles or other closures that require good coordination to open. Velcro, snaps, and zippers are easier. If you want to buy a new bag for this, you can find a wide variety of bags at www.ebags.com. In particular, they have some nylon bags that weigh only a few ounces.
There are many things I can do without, but a comfortable pillow isn’t one of them. We all have preferences about pillows, so why not choose a small one that makes you super comfy? Travel pillows can work well for this, and they come in different shapes and sizes. Some good sources for these are www.ebags.com and www.amazon.com.
For this purpose, don’t limit your search to blankets. Throws and flannel sheets are also good options. Again, look at travel products. There are quite a few travel blankets made of fleece. They’re light weight, yet warm. They can fold or roll up to be pretty small, and they wash easily. These too can be found online at www.ebags.com and www.amazon.com.
At home, I like gel packs from the freezer. Obviously, that’s not easily achieved when traveling. Cooling gel sheets are a good option. I’ve tried several brands without noticing a significant difference, so I shop for them by price. The BeKoool sheets in the children’s size are a frequent choice. The children’s size is large enough for most adults and less expensive. Migraine Ice is another brand. You can find these in most pharmacies or online at www.drugstore.com.
For Migraineurs, darkness can be essential, so eye shades can be a necessity. It’s not always easy to find a very dark room when traveling. You’re at the mercy of whatever blinds and shades are in the rooms you’re staying in, and if you get a daytime Migraine in the car – ouch! When choosing, be sure that, if there’s a band that goes around you head to hold them in place, it’s not too tight. A good source for eye shades is www.drugstore.com.
If the earphones for your MP3 player bother you when you have a Migraine, there are now many good portable speaker systems that you can use with MP3 players. Amazon.com has a wide variety of portable speaker systems in all price ranges.
Don’t forget the tissues. Add anything else you can think of that you might need or want. I keep some peppermint hard candy in my bag because it helps relieve my nausea. Some other possible items – Peppermint tea bags, saltine crackers, bottled water, peppermint essential oil diluted in a carrier oil, ear plugs…
If you sometimes have to go to the ER for a Migraine, prepare the forms discussed above and keep copies of them in your pack. Also keep a copy of all of all the medications you take in your pack. Anyone who treats you will need this information. It can also be helpful to make a copy of the front and back of your insurance card so they don’t have to take the time to do that at the hospital.
All of us with Migraine disease share a two-part goal:
Reduce the frequency and severity of our Migraine attacks as much as possible.
Abort those we do get as quickly as possible and reduce their impact on our lives.
MAPPing our Migraines goes a long way toward improving our quality of life by making those Migraines we do get easier to cope with. A good MAPP also makes things easier on our families. Try it. You’ll be amazed how much difference a bit of organization and planning can make!
Teri Robert is a leading patient educator and advocate and the author of Living Well with Migraine Disease and Headaches. A co-founder of the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy and the American Headache and Migraine Association, she received the National Headache Foundation’s Patient Partners Award and a Distinguished Service Award from the American Headache Society. Teri can be found on her website, and blog, Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.