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6 Parenting Tips for When You Have a Migraine

Strategies to help parents who get migraines.
By Jen Uscher
WebMD Feature

If you're a mom or dad who has migraines, you may worry about the impact your headaches could have on your family. Migraines can develop at the most inconvenient times, making it harder to juggle your parenting responsibilities. 

"When you're in the midst of a migraine, it can be difficult to function and take care of your kids," says Audrey Halpern, MD, a clinical assistant professor of neurology at New York University School of Medicine. "Both the pain and the associated symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and noise can be debilitating." 

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to manage your symptoms and line up extra help when you need it. Here are some ways that Halpern and parents with first-hand experience say you can cope better with migraines while caring for your kids.

1. Be prepared.

By planning, you may be able to reduce the intensity and frequency of your migraines.

For example, because skipping meals can trigger migraines, Halpern suggests packing a healthy snack in your bag for yourself -- just as you do for your kids -- when you head out the door. If you have trouble remembering to take your medication or eat a snack, Halpern recommends setting an alarm on your watch or cell phone as a reminder.

It's especially important, parents say, to make sure that you always have your migraine medication on hand in case you need it. Some find that if they take their medication as soon as they notice the first symptoms of a migraine, they can reduce its severity.

Erika Bowles, a mother of a 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter in Falls Church, Va., once got a migraine during a friend's baby shower. "My daughter was with me at the shower and I realized that I didn't have my medication with me and didn't feel well enough to drive us home," she says. Although Bowles' mother was able to pick them up, she notes, "I have never left the house without my meds since then."

2. Identify and avoid your migraine triggers.

If you're not sure of your migraine triggers, Halpern advises tracking your headaches on a calendar for a few months.

Record when you have a headache, your pain level on a scale of 1-10, what medications you took, and other factors that stand out, such as if you didn't get enough sleep. Women should track their menstrual cycle on the calendar as well.

"A lot of people with migraines can identify at least some of their triggers and then they can avoid those triggers or plan around them," Halpern tells WebMD.

Some common migraine triggers include lack of sleep, dehydration, stress, changes in weather or barometric pressure, bright lights, certain foods or alcohol -- and, for women, hormonal changes during menstrual cycles.

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