Migraines, Flying and The Mile High City

flying with chris

Flying with Hubby

News flash: changes in the barometric pressure are rough on migraineurs. 

Be it through a storm front, a flight or even a drive up into the mountains, changes in the atmospheric pressure top the charts for migraine triggers.

Over the summer, hubby and I took a trip that included Olympic hurtles for a migraineur:

  1. We flew
  2. We went to Colorado (you know, the state which is famous for causing altitude sickness/headaches in people who don’t even get migraines).

I managed to get through our vacation without any horrific migraines and I am about to tell you how I did it: I worked with my neurologist for several months and we came up with a plan.

This is the thing, I take a holistic approach to my health. At the same time, I have lived through critical illnesses including leukemia and crohns disease (on top of the painful migraines). I also worked in acute care and rehab as a speech therapist for almost 20 years with profoundly sick patients. Everything I have been through as a patient and a health care professional makes me respect the reality that there are some conditions which require prescription medications.

After 20 years of migraines and having tried almost all the options that are available, I can honestly say that at this point in my journey, I need preventative and treatment medications for my migraines.

Overall I use a holistic migraine plan which includes: maintaining a regular sleep schedule, minimizing caffeine, keeping my blood sugar stable, avoiding dietary and environmental triggers, eating a nutrient dense anti-inflammatory diet, staying hydrated, practicing yoga and getting at least 15-20 minutes of light cardio a day (without overheating).

My neurologist is a headache specialist and agrees that the lifestyle changes are crucial for controlling the migraines.

When my husband and I decided to go on this trip, there were some special events that I wanted to be able to attend. In addition, we had spent most of the previous year pushing hard to get through my relapse of leukemia. I did not want to get to Colorado only to end up in the ER due to a severe migraine.

So I talked honestly with my neurologist and this is the plan he gave me.

I am sharing it with you as a resource but not as a treatment plan. It is important that you talk with your doctor about managing your migraines.

  1. He put me on a steroid taper. It was not prednisone; it was a much lighter steroid that lasted for 6 days.
  2. One hour before we boarded the plane, he had me take an ibuprofen and a triptan.
  3. One hour before we landed, he had me take an ibuprofen and a triptan.
  4. Throughout the flight and my entire time in Colorado I drank **a lot** of water–I hydrated.
  5. I did not drink alcohol or coffee on the plane
  6. I took the steroid each day as prescribed along with a daily triptan and ibuprofen if needed
  7. I did drink some alcohol on the trip, but not much. And when I did drink alcohol I made certain to drink 2 glasses of water for each cocktail.

Overall I did really well. I only got one migraine that was bad enough to interfere with our plans. However, my doctor had given me medication in the event that I got a severe migraine.

So, I never ended up in the ER and I never ended up in the sick bed with all the lights off. It was a successful trip.

One more thing I got to do on our trip: I got to spend a special moment with one of my all time favorite musicians, John Denver, at Red Rocks Amphitheatre 🙂


Jessica and John Denver

If you suffer from migraines, you should be under the care of a neurologist. Ideally, your neurologist will be a headache specialist. This may mean that you have to travel to a larger city every few months for a check-up appointment. And while that is not convenient, if your migraines are severe, you will probably start to feel better after you get the appropriate treatment.

And talk to your doctor; be honest with that doctor about anything and everything that you want to try in the alternative medicine world. I know that it is intimidating, but there are some medications that do not mix well with alternative treatments so it is very important to be honest.

Migraines are complicated and they don’t get better overnight but working with the right doctor and making lifestyle changes can help. I will be sharing some more of my lifestyle tips in future posts.

Over the years, I have read more books about migraines than I can count. My favorite is Heal Your Headache by David Buchholz. It is the book that I have repeatedly turned to repeatedly for guidance, comfort and answers in trying to solve the migraine puzzle.

Do you have any tips for living with migraines? Specifically for travelling as a person who gets them?

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