Although the holiday season may be the most festive time of the year, it can also expose those suffering from recurrent migraines to many potential triggers. From Christmas music, flashing lights, holiday drinks, sugary foods and large crowds, the winter holidays can increase the risk of migraine headaches in predisposed individuals. The best way to avoid migraine attacks during the holidays is to make some adjustments to your routine while still allowing yourself to enjoy the festivities the season brings. In this article, we will discuss some effective strategies to prevent migraines during the holiday season.

  1. Avoid artificial seasonal scents

Unfortunately, some of your favourite Christmas scents which often come in the form of scented candles, incense, perfume and lotion also act as potent migraine triggers. Traditional artificial holiday smells such as cinnamon, pine and other perfumes can be quite strong in indoor spaces. Pine, cinnamon, and perfumes fill the air during the holidays. If you already know that strong scents can trigger your migraine headaches, it is best to avoid using products with strong scents or spaces where these scents are used, such as cosmetics and home décor stores.

  1. Limit your holiday drinks

While it may be difficult to say ‘no’ to that festive cocktail at holiday parties, having too many drinks will also increase your likelihood of a migraine attack. Specifically, experts recommend to avoid strong alcohol and red wine, which have been identified as a potential migraine triggers. To decrease your risk of having a migraine attack, you can alternate alcohol-containing drinks with drinking glasses of water. Moreover, it is best to limit your alcohol intake and stop having alcohol-containing drinks two hours before bedtime. Finally, there are also many alcohol-free versions of holiday cocktails that you can enjoy while avoiding migraines.

  1. Plan ahead

With our busy lives, it may be difficult to do all the holiday shopping in advance. However, the crowds, noise and long lines at stores and shopping malls in the days preceding the holidays can result in increased stress and trigger a migraine attack. Therefore, it is important to plan ahead to the holidays – this includes making shopping lists and buying gifts early, which will make for brief shopping trips. Online shopping is another good option to avoid the chaos of holiday shopping for migraine sufferers.

  1. Use migraine-friendly decorations

Intense external stimulation such as flashing, bright lights can serve as a migraine trigger. If lights can trigger migraine attacks for you, opt for other types of decorations for the holiday season, such as ornaments and figurines, both inside and outside your home.

  1. Watch your caffeine intake

It may be tempting to regularly indulge yourself in holiday coffee drinks at your local coffee shops to warm up during the cold winter. However, increased caffeine intake can also translate into more migraines over the holidays. Therefore, it is important to ensure that during the festive season, you do not consume more caffeine than normally. To do this, you can opt for the ‘decaf’ option of your favourite coffee-containing drinks, or switch to hot chocolate or herbal tea.

  1. Limit sugary snacks

Processed sugary foods are all around us during the holiday season. Foods high in sugar, such as cookies, sweets and Christmas chocolates, are known migraine triggers. For migraine sufferers, it is best to limit sugar intake to avoid migraine onset during the holidays. To cut down on sugary foods, you can choose foods sweetened with sugar substitutes such as stevia, or you can opt for seasonal fruit such as oranges and mandarins.

  1. Be aware of holiday foods

Some foods that you will likely find at holiday parties and work lunches act as migraine triggers, and you should be aware of them. These foods include aged cheeses, such as Camembert and blue cheese, as well as cured meats, such as ham and sausages, as they contain tyramine and nitrates, both of which can trigger migraines. To avoid migraines, opt for more fresh fruits and vegetables, unprocessed meats, and whole grains.

  1. Make sure to get enough sleep

The holiday season can bring about big changes in our sleep schedules – from staying up late to prepare for the holidays to going out with friends and attending holiday parties. It can be so easy to break your sleep routine if you are traveling over the holidays or have guests visiting. However, for migraine sufferers, it is important to get enough sleep to decrease your chances of getting a migraine.


The holiday season is long, and you can enjoy it while minimising your risk of migraine headaches. Remember: you are not obligated to make it to all holiday parties, and if you go home early from festivities, you can make other arrangements to catch up with family and friends. Making a few simple adjustments to your holiday schedule and routine will help you enjoy a migraine-free festive season.