About 157 million workdays are lost each year in the U.S. due to migraine. Nine out of 10 people with it say they "can't function normally" on days that they strike. About one-third of them say they have to go to bed when that happens.
But when a migraine starts in the office, going to bed isn't an option.
There are things that can help you avoid a migraine while you're on the job. Still, you should have a plan in case one hits.
Know Your Triggers
Your workplace may be full of things that can set off migraines. To make life easier in the office, try to figure out which things bring your pain. A headache diary can help you look for patterns. Keep track of what was happening when your migraines started and what you think set them off.
Common triggers include:
Lighting: Bright, flickering, or fluorescent lights can bring migraines to some people. So can glaring computer screens.
Smells: You may get a migraine when faced with strong odors like perfumes, secondhand smoke, or cleaners. Different smells can affect people with migraine. Even a whiff of someone's lunch in the microwave can be a trigger.
Noise: For some, loud sounds or too much noise can bring a migraine.
Travel: Heading out of town for work can bring the pain. It can happen because you change how you sleep and eat when you're on the road.
Stress: Many people have lots of pressure on the job. Migraines are most likely to happen when you're stressed.
Avoid Your Triggers
If you know what's likely to trigger a migraine at work, try to stay away from them:
- Turn off fluorescent lights, or ask to have ones that flicker fixed.
- Use an anti-glare screen for your computer.
- Use headphones if your workspace is noisy, or ask to move to a quieter area.
- If people around you use fragrances, ask about a no-scent policy.
- If kitchen smells bother you, see if you can be moved away from areas with food.
- If cleaning smells bother you, ask your office to switch to odor-free products.
- Take regular breaks for fresh air.
- Find stress relievers, like relaxing music or deep breathing exercises.
- Don't skip meals. Hunger can bring a migraine.
Be ready in case a migraine hits.
- Keep medicine with you, and take it as soon as you feel one coming on. When traveling, make sure it's always within arm's reach.
- Have a heat pack or cold pack on hand, if those help.
- Find a dark, quiet place to go when you need some privacy, like a break room or other little-used space.
It may be a good idea to talk to your boss or HR department, especially if the pain affects how you do your job.
Migraines can be a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The legislation makes it illegal for your boss to discriminate against you because of your condition. Whether you qualify for protection under the act depends on how much your migraine affects your ability to do your job.
You can work with your boss or human resources department to come up with ways to make it easier to do your job. They may be able to make some changes in your workspace. You may also want to tell them that you may have to come in late, leave early, or work from home if a migraine strikes.