As the holidays draw near, and we look forward to sweet treats, festive music, twinkling lights and an extra dose of family visits, headaches, and even migraines, are often part of the deal…..
Dr Elliot Shevel, the chairman of the South African Headache Society, maintains that these favoured holiday traditions can also bring on an unwelcome threat of headaches and for some, even a debilitating migraine attack.
No matter what the type, experts now know that headaches can be triggered by foods, beverages and other lifestyle factors. Sufferers should pay careful attention to what they eat and drink over the next few weeks while attending Christmas and New Yearâ??s parties.
Dr Shevel has the following advice for headache sufferers:

•    In summer, people who are prone to headaches and migraines should take plenty of fluids. Dehydration is known to trigger migraines in some people, so be sure to remain properly hydrated. It is best to drink plain water, as many carbonated soft drinks contain substances that can also trigger headaches.

Substances that headache sufferers should avoid include common ingredients such as caffeine and artificial sweeteners. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol leads to dehydration. Headache sufferers should try not to drink liquor if it is a trigger to their headache. If they do have a drink, ensure that they drink plenty of water during and following a session of indulgence. At least one glass of water to each glass of alcohol is advisable.

•    Too much hard partying until the early hours may also mean that headache patients do not get enough sleep â?? also a major trigger of headaches and migraines.

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•    A healthy diet with regular and well-balanced meals can often work wonders for a headache-prone person.

•    Many headache and migraine sufferers are sensitive to bright light and avoid it when they have a headache, it is also a trigger. It is wise to wear sunglasses for protection. Polarised lenses are recommended, as they are effective in cutting out glare and a suitable hat may also be helpful.

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•    Changes in season also bring about changes in the pollen types that are in the air and these may directly trigger hay-fever and sinus congestion which can trigger headaches.

•    Summer can also be a very stressful time, thanks to large family gatherings over the festive season, and stress is a major headache trigger. Headache and migraine sufferers should try to manage stress and plan ahead of time for big family get-togethers and holidays to avoid tension headaches. For example, try to avoid last minute gift shopping, ensure your car is serviced before travelling, delegate chores to family members and make travel reservations well in advance.

•    People who are sensitive to fragrances and/or other odours should bear this in mind when shopping for sunscreen, insect repellent and other summer products. Seek those that are fragrance free and ask a pharmacist for advice if necessary.

It is important that migraine patients, and those who live and work with them, understand that migraine pain is a real neurobiological disease that can be treated following proper diagnosis, says Dr Shevel. People who suffer from migraines and headaches are urged to seek treatment so that they do not have to live with this unbearable condition.

For more information please contact Mary-lee Cantor on +27 11 484 0933 or go to


While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.