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Talking About Migraine

Actor portrayals. Individual results may vary.

Talking to others about what they can do to help

You may want to talk to friends, family, and colleagues about your migraine. This may help avoid misunderstandings about what you are going through and how they might help. Keep in mind that each situation is different. For those who don’t experience migraine first hand, it can be hard to understand the seriousness of migraine.

Talking to friends and family

The best time to talk is generally when you are not in pain. Remember, migraine can be a “family affair” that affects everyone.

Some good discussion points may include:

  • Symptoms that may signal for you that a migraine attack is coming (an aura, for example)
  • Things that may trigger a migraine (stress or loud noises, for example)
  • How you feel during an attack (such as feeling sensitive to light or sounds or nauseated)
  • What helps you cope when you are experiencing a migraine (being in a completely dark room, for example)
  • The medicines you take to help prevent migraine
  • How long your migraine attacks typically last
  • How frequently your migraine attacks occur
  • What they might be able to do to help you during an attack (from understanding that you might miss social activities, to helping you with your household chores, to just letting you be in a dark room until you feel better)

Talking to your children—simple is best

Many parents worry about what and how much to tell their children when they are in pain. What you decide to tell your child will depend on many factors, including your child’s age. If your child can understand the concept of “it hurts,” you have a good starting point. Here are some sample statements to help start a conversation about migraine:

  • “You may have wondered why I take different medicines for my head pain”
  • “You may have wondered why I sometimes have to stay home and rest and cannot go to your soccer games or drive you to a play date”
  • “Some kids worry when they know their parents go to a doctor a lot, so let me tell you how my doctor is helping me”
  • “Sometimes when my head is hurting and I am feeling bad, it may seem like I am upset with you, but I’m not”

Be honest and straightforward about what you are experiencing. This may help your kids understand why you miss certain activities. Make sure your children understand that they are not the source of your pain.

You and your family can also work together to create a migraine action plan. For example, you can plan a backup for household chores or getting the kids to school and activities.

Talking to colleagues and employers

Very few people’s lives are not touched by some form of illness. Migraine is an illness that affects millions of people.

Having said that, every workplace is different, and what you disclose to your employers or co-workers is up to you.

The possible advantage to sharing information is that it may be easier to work around those times you have to miss work if your employer and coworkers understand migraine headaches what you are doing to manage them. Here are some tips:

  • Don’t focus too much on migraine in everyday professional conversations. Just do the best job you can when you are able
  • If you cannot work or feel too sick, consider going home during a migraine attack
  • Don’t work through lunch or skip meals because you have to work. Not eating during the day may trigger a migraine
  • If your work area is too bright, ask if you can adjust the lighting or move where you sit
  • Use an antiglare screen on your computer to avoid monitor settings that can trigger migraine
  • Ask coworkers to be mindful of using too much perfume or cologne, as strong odors may be a migraine trigger
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