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Holiday Headaches

Party food and drink plus last-minute rush can add up to a migraine.

MONDAY, Dec. 23, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Consider this happy holiday tableau:

A polished party table that is gleaming with polished silver, afire with candles and laden with smoked salmon, smoked ham, red wine, Camembert, Brie and a variety of salted nuts.

And there you are, fresh from Bloomingdale's where you've been stalked and spritzed by perfume saleswomen, fresh from a mad cab ride across town. Now your head is pounding with an incipient migraine as you fumble for medication and try to think of an excuse to leave early.

Everything on that party table, not to mention the unwanted jet of perfume, the scrambling to get to the party on time and the lack of sleep the night before, is a potential migraine trigger.

"The holiday season seems to be a time of disaster for people with migraine," says Dr. Larry Newman, director of the Headache Institute at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. "If you think of every potential trigger for migraine, this is the time of year we expose our migraine sufferers to them. Tis the season to have migraine."

Everything from food (smoked foods, sausages, aged cheese, salted nuts) and drink (red wine, beer) to stress, changes in sleeping and eating patterns (including skipping meals), weather changes and gifts of scented candles, scented cards or potpourri are time bombs waiting to go off. Even the plane trip to visit relatives can set off a head-splitting migraine.

Here are some holiday headache-survival tips from Newman:

  • Don't go to every party you're invited to -- or go but don't stay all night. Make an appearance, then excuse yourself.
  • Go easy on the red wine and dark liquor, which are more common migraine triggers. Instead, opt for white wine vodka, a soda or (it's just a thought) nothing!
  • Don't have the hot dog and ham and nuts and cheese. Pick what you really want to have and keep it at that.
  • Don't do all your shopping at the last minute (yes, yes, easier said than done).
  • Give yourself regular sleep and eating schedules and try to stick with them. Changes in either of these areas can bring on migraines.
  • Snatch a nap when you can.
  • Ask for help when you need it and -- above all -- take time for yourself.

What To Do

For more on migraines, visit the Migraine Awareness Group or the National Headache Foundation

SOURCES: Larry Newman, M.D., director, The Headache Institute, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, New York City
Consumer News