The holidays don't always have to be a headache

Help someone you love make this holiday season migraine-free

MONTREAL, Dec. 17 /CNW/ - The holiday season is a time for family and friends to be together but when a migraine hits someone in the family it can be a real headache for everyone. When a person suffers a migraine attack it can be so debilitating that it can take away from holiday time together but there are things family and friends can do to help prevent the onset. It's a matter of understanding where the problem areas may lie, and starts with understanding a bit about migraine and how it affects those who suffer from it.

"If you are planning a holiday gathering and know that a guest is prone to migraines, there are some simple steps you can take to lessen the chances they will suffer from an attack," said Dr. Suzanne Christie, President, of the Canadian Headache Society, a non-profit physician organization dedicated to promoting research, education and patient care in the field of headache. "There are certain "triggers" that can set off migraine headaches and knowing what they are in advance will go a long way to making a happier holiday season for all."

Stress is the factor listed most often by migraine sufferers as a trigger for their attacks. In addition, there is evidence that while stress can initiate migraine in those who are predisposed, it can also lead to worsening of a migraine in the long run by establishing a vicious cycle whereby stress leads to migraine and migraine leads to stress. The holiday season can be stressful and migraine sufferers need to be mindful of this. Relaxation exercises and rest may be helpful.

Some common food triggers that might not be apparent when people are eating are red wine, artificial sweeteners, MSG, vinegar, fresh yeast products straight from the oven and other preserved or processed meats and dairy products such as aged cheeses, whole milk and sour cream. Certain smells can also be migraine triggers and should be avoided, including cigarettes, perfumes, cleaning products and some of the strong smells from scented candles that are popular at holiday time. Other triggers are strong or glaring lights, and flickering lights such as those found on some holiday decorations.

Neurologists gathered last weekend in Amsterdam during the Heads-Up on Migraine meeting organized by the University of Duisburg-Essen, to discuss possible solutions for migraine sufferers. A similar forum focused on the impact of migraines on Canadians, held by the Canadian Headache Society in Toronto in May 2006, and was attended by neurologists, family physicians, nurses, psychologists, pharmacists, and individuals with migraine.

"The holiday season is a particularly challenging time for migraine sufferers as they fear that their migraines will disrupt the festivities for them and their loved ones. Sticking to a routine and avoiding overindulgences as well as maintaining good rest habits will help to prevent migraines. It's important to have medication at hand as prompt treatment has a greater chance of success." said Dr. Stephen McKenzie, neurologist affiliated with the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine and the Trillium Health Centre in Mississauga, Ontario. Dr McKenzie is also a member of the CHS.

About migraine

Migraine is a chronic biological disorder that makes an individual prone to recurrent headache attacks. Migraine is not the only cause of repeated headaches, but migraine headaches are somewhat different from tension type headaches, or cluster headaches, even though, like migraine, these two other conditions also cause recurrent attacks of headache. Many sufferers will have nausea and even vomiting with their attacks while others experience marked sensitivity to light and sound.

If someone develops a migraine while visiting your home offer them a quiet, dark place to lie down and offer to help them get the medications they need. That kind of understanding and accommodation can go a long way.

"While there are effective medications to help alleviate the symptoms of migraine headache, prevention is always the best medicine," added Dr. Christie. "With a greater understanding of what migraine is and how it affects those who get migraine headaches, it's easy to be more accommodating at holiday time."

About the Canadian Headache Society

The Canadian Headache Society is a non-profit physician organization dedicated to promoting research, education and patient care in the field of headache. Its joint website with the Canadian Headache Network, featuring scientifically based information on the diagnosis and treatment of headache for individuals with headache and health professionals, is available at


For further information: For further information: Ethan Pigott, Hill & Knowlton, (416) 413-4744,

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