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Migraines & Headaches Health Center

Migraines and Your Job

How to keep your career on track when you have migraines.
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WebMD Feature

Getting migraine headaches is tough. Managing a migraine at work can be even trickier.

Can you keep migraines at bay while you're on the job? What can you do if one strikes during working hours? How much do you have to tell your boss about it, and could it hurt your career?

WebMD spoke with migraine and workplace experts about that. Here's their advice:

Headache Prevention on the Job

If a migraine strikes at work and is not treated and resolved quickly enough, there's a good chance it will hamper your ability to operate at full speed or in some cases, stay at work at all.

Migraines are often seen as a minor condition by people who don't get them. If your coworkers have never suffered a migraine, they might be clueless about what you're going through.

One of the best ways to address migraines at work is to avoid one, says Noah Rosen, MD, director of the Headache Center at the Cushing Neuroscience Institute at the North Shore-LIJ Health System in Manhasset, N.Y.

If you don't already know, it's worth figuring out what your most common migraine triggers are. Keeping a log of your headaches may help you get a better handle on what increases the chances of a migraine coming on, so you can take steps to reduce their frequency or avoid them.

When a Migraine Strikes at Work

Rosen says studies suggest that when a migraine strikes, taking medication as soon as the pain starts can help to prevent a headache from getting out of control. So be prepared.

"In general, I would recommend headache sufferers keep all of their non-sedating medications at work," Rosen says. This includes anti-inflammatory and migraine-specific medications.

If possible, retreat to a break room or a quiet space while you're waiting for the medication to start working.

Just keep the heavy stuff at home, Rosen advises. Narcotic pain relievers and some anti-nausea medications can be quite sedating. And any new medication should always be tried first at home, so you know how you react to it.

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