If you’re someone who experiences migraines, you know that they often come out of nowhere — triggered by sounds, smells, or even the weather.
Whenever it rains, I know I will likely end up with a severe headache. (So, I have a valid reason for hating the rain apart from being a California native.) Because a storm — and thus a migraine — can strike at any time, it’s essential to have relief on hand when you need it.
It took a while for me to perfect my migraine kit, but now I can go about my day with minimal nerves about if and when my next migraine episode might start.
If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.
Coffee is my first line of defense against migraine. As the antithesis of a morning person, I drink coffee most mornings, but I make sure to also drink a cup the moment I feel a headache coming on.
Doctors advise enjoying caffeine in moderation — like all good things — but according to the National Headache Foundation, coffee can help restrict blood flow that makes migraine symptoms worse.
I am trying to be more frugal and environmentally friendly, so I make a cup of coffee (with oat milk) before leaving my house or I bring a travel mug to my favorite coffee shop.
In moments of desperation, I’m willing to drink my office’s gross Keurig coffee — but I don’t advise stooping to this level unless absolutely necessary.
My grandpa in Lebanon is a pharmacist, so my family has never been opposed to a good, classic over-the-counter (OTC) solution.
Since migraines are not the only chronic pain condition I have (sucks to suck), I always have pain relievers on hand. This also makes me very popular among any and all people who cry out, “Does anyone have any Advil?!” Because I always do.
Just make sure not to overuse these OTC meds, since if taken daily for headaches, a side effect can actually be overuse headaches. So not fair, right?
Pro tip: It’s best to stay hydrated and take an OTC pain reliever when you first feel the signs that a migraine attack is coming on. Symptoms are harder to control with OTC meds after your migraine attack is full force.
Excedrin is the god among men of migraine meds. It combines three of some of the most effective migraine treatments: caffeine, acetaminophen, and aspirin (see above). But seriously — I keep a bottle at home, a bottle in my purse, and a bottle at my office.
I literally have zero shame when I have a migraine and become super light-sensitive. As such, I will wear sunglasses anywhere — the office, the metro, a restaurant. Nothing is better to block fluorescent lights or the literal sun than a nice big pair of sunglasses.
Wearing sunglasses is what I have found to be the best quick fix when I can’t wear an eye mask (like when I need to be able to see). If I get a migraine at home, I am immediately horizontal with an eye mask on. I also highly recommend that.
I do warn you that your office mates might think you’re hungover if you wear your sunglasses at the office. This doesn’t bother me — #NoShame.
I love to listen to music while I work (shout-out to the “Knives Out” soundtrack). But when I’m having a migraine, there is nothing that sounds more pleasant than absolute silence.
For that reason — and in case I need a spontaneous nap — I keep squishy CVS brand earplugs in my purse at all times.
It’s a bit weird to not be able to hear people in the office calling your name, but it’s a welcome confusion when every sound in the world sounds so, so loud.
At the risk of sounding like the archetype of the California millennial I was raised to be, I love a good essential oil. Though, I have cats, so diffusing essential oils in my house is a no-no since many EOs are toxic to cats.
That being said, diluting lavender or peppermint essential oils and rubbing them on my temples or on my upper lip can help a lot. The scent is really soothing and not overpowering in the way other smells are when I’m having a migraine attack.
I have a set of those reusable ice packs that you fill with water and ice (a big one for home and a little one for the office). You can often find me with one of those on top of my head or on the back of my neck for some migraine tension relief.
As much as I love those ice packs, my interest has recently been piqued by migraine ice masks that cover the top half of your face like an eye mask. That relief sounds so refreshing so I’m definitely going to try that the next time I have a migraine episode!
This one’s for my fellow brown folks. If you grew up in an immigrant household like I did, chances are your parents or grandparents told you that Vicks was the solution to every ailment you’ve ever had.
You may not agree that rubbing Vicks on your feet will cure a cough, but it sure does help with migraine symptoms. I rub it on my temples and the smell and the cooling effect really help.
The appeal of this could be the nostalgia of my mom taking care of me, but I stand by it!
Having migraine attacks is super inconvenient — and scary. It’s honestly terrible feeling so vulnerable because of unexpected pain. Having a migraine kit on hand gives me just a little bit of control in a situation where I would otherwise have none.
Reina Sultan (she/her) is a Lebanese-American Muslim woman working on gender and conflict issues at her nine-to-five. Her work can also be found in Huffington Post, Rewire.News, Wear Your Voice Mag, and Rantt. Follow @SultanReina on Twitter for endless hot takes and photos of her extremely cute cats.