Ochsner Recommends Migraine Prevention this Holiday Season

NEW ORLEANS – The festive holiday season can be a very joyful time of year, but hectic schedules and overindulgence can sometimes turn the most wonderful time of the year into the most stressful time of year. For migraine sufferers, the holiday stressors can also trigger migraines, which can contribute to the onset of a headache.

Affecting millions of Americans each year, migraines are often a severe, throbbing type of headache different from other types of headaches in that symptoms other than pain occur with the headache. Nausea and vomiting, lightheadedness, sensitivity to light and other visual disturbances are common migraine symptoms. A migraine headache may last from 4 to 72 hours.

Common holiday stressors include certain kinds of food and beverages, loss of good quality sleep and lack of cardiovascular exercise. Though many experience these potential triggers throughout the year, this trifecta can ruin your holiday cheer.

Jose Posas, MD, Neurologist, The Comprehensive Headache Center at Ochsner Baptist, recommends the following for migraine sufferers this holiday season:

Avoid Food and Drink Triggers

There tends to be an overindulgence associated with foods and beverages, especially around holidays. Common foods that can trigger migraine headaches can include processed and fried meats including turkey, sausages and processed ham. Sometimes spices that are placed on foods can trigger a migraine attack. These can include MSG, aspartame and other artificial salts and sweeteners. Some people can be so sensitive to these foods and spices that even a small amount can cause significant and severe headaches.

Beverages are also a frequent culprit. Beverages that can often cause these issues include hot chocolate, red wine, white wine and various spirits. Caffeine and alcohol can certainly wreak havoc on otherwise well-controlled migraines and headaches. It is important to maintain your current level of consumption as some people can be negatively affected by drinking more or less caffeine than they are used to consuming.

Keep Sleep Routine

Holiday parties can also lead to less time for sleep — late nights become more commonplace and good sleep is hard to achieve. To prevent headaches, six to eight hours of high quality sleep is recommended. High quality sleep means avoiding sleep aids and getting uninterrupted sleep. Sleep is an often underappreciated reason that people’s headaches worsen “unexpectedly.”

Stay Active and Exercise

Though we all like to relax a bit more over holiday breaks, it is important to make sure that a holiday pattern of a sedentary lifestyle doesn’t overtake a normal healthy habit. This can help with the prevention of headaches. Make a new tradition of walking, light jogging or physical exertion that occurs after a holiday.

In addition to over-the-counter pain relief medications, Dr. Posas also recommends cold packs applied to the skin, pressure applied to the head and resting in a quiet, dark environment. If migraines become a frequent occurrence or disrupts quality of life, talk to your healthcare provide for further evaluation.

For more information on the Comprehensive Headache Center at Ochsner or for online appointments, visit www.ochsner.org. Or, call 504-897-4250 for appointments.


Ochsner Health System is Louisiana’s largest non-profit, academic, healthcare system. Driven by a mission to Serve, Heal, Lead, Educate and Innovate, coordinated clinical and hospital patient care is provided across the region by Ochsner's 30 owned, managed and affiliated hospitals and more than 60 health centers. Ochsner is the only Louisiana hospital recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a “Best Hospital” across three specialty categories caring for patients from all 50 states and more than 80 countries worldwide each year. Ochsner employs more than 17,000 employees and over 1,000 physicians in over 90 medical specialties and subspecialties, and conducts more than 600 clinical research studies. Ochsner Health System is proud to be a tobacco-free environment. For more information, please visit ochsner.org and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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