Valentine’s Day may be the time to spark off romance, but for half a million people in Ireland the day can also spark off a migraine.
“Over 20 per cent of sufferers list dietary factors as triggers,” says Donna Ryan, information officer at the Migraine Association of Ireland. “Common Valentine gifts such as chocolate and alcohol always rank highly, as do processed meats and cheeses. However we don’t advise those affected by migraine to exclude foods from their diet unless they are proven triggers for them.”
Smells are also often blamed as triggers, making gifts of perfume or fresh flowers a problem in some cases. Dates to the cinema, theatre, or a music concert may set off attacks – possible migraine triggers include screen flicker, loud noise, and fluorescent/strobe lighting.
A weekend away to celebrate can cause problems. According to Ryan, “The migraine brain needs routine – so jet lag and time zone changes may set off attacks. Positive stress or excitement can also be triggers, as can the high altitude, air pressure within aeroplane cabins, and various weather conditions.”
The Migraine Association advises those affected to be prepared – carrying their medication with them at all times and ensuring their partners are aware of potential triggers in advance.