Tips for avoiding summer migraines and headaches

Summer is the season of sun, vacation, days at the pool and family get-togethers. For some frequent migraine sufferers, it also can be a time of intense attacks preventing them from functioning normally.

Nearly 37 million people in the United States and 1 billion people worldwide are estimated to suffer from migraines severe enough to impact daily life. Migraines are believed to be associated with a combination of genetic and environmental factors. They also are more common in women than men.

“Headaches, whether migraine or another type, can inhibit work and lifestyle activities,” said Michelle Androulakis, M.D., neurologist and headache medicine specialist at Palmetto Health-USC Medical Group Neurology. “For many, headache pain can be addressed with lifestyle changes and appropriate medication, when necessary.”

For someone who hasn’t experienced it, a migraine headache might be difficult to manage – throbbing pain can range from moderate to severe, may be accompanied by light and sound sensitivity, nausea and vomiting.

Research has helped identify triggers – potential influences that start headaches. Tips to help limit triggers:

  • Stay hydrated. This is important all year but especially in the summer. Dehydration is a major headache and migraine trigger for many people.
  • Manage stress.
  • Eat a healthy diet and exercise.
  • Track headaches using headache diaries or an app like iHeadaches.

Androulakis wants to remind the community that a migraine is not just a headache. It is a very complex neurological disorder. She added, “Migraine headache pain is thought to be caused by changes in nerve input. During the migraine attack, changes in the electrical activity of the brain affect the nerve endings and blood vessels of the outer layer of the brain. However, the exact reasons why people have migraines are not clear yet. This is a research topic for many clinician-scientists, including myself.”

One of the projects Palmetto Health-USC Medical Group Neurology physicians currently are working on is looking at different phases of a migraine attack. Physicians recommend you contact your primary care physician when you:

  • Have two or more headaches each week
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers almost daily
  • Believe headaches are getting worse or changing characteristics

For more information about Palmetto Health Neurology, visit PalmettoHealth.org or call 803-296-CARE.