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Relief for prolonged headaches

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Summer is, apparently, the worst time of the year for people suffering from migraines. The hot weather, accompanied by bright light, has the potential to aggravate the condition, doctors caution.

“Come summer, and I end up suffering from migraine at least twice a week,” says M. Manisha, a student who has been diagnosed with the condition. “Anyone with a migraine will say that all headaches are not the same. It’s difficult to understand what a migraine is truly like without having experienced one.”

Doctors have also been witnessing a spike in the number of patients this season. “With the temperature touching 41 degrees in Tiruchi, the number of patients coming to us complaining of prolonged headaches is also rising,” says Dr. Veni, Assistant Professor at the Department of Neurology at KAP Viswanatham Government Medical College.

A common, but lesser known trigger, is an empty stomach. Fasting, especially skipping breakfast has been known to cause headache. “There is the ‘hair wash headache’. Not drying your hair properly after washing it can lead to severe migraines. People who rush to work in the morning, thinking that the sun will dry their hair, are in for trouble. The sun plus wet hair is a serious trigger,” she says. Even consuming milk, chocolates and cold beverages can aggravate it.

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Migraines are only one of the 165 kinds of headaches an individual can get. “Although predominantly genetic, migraines are confused with all sorts of headaches. Though the condition can be easily treated, it is unfortunate that it is often misdiagnosed. At times, doctors mix up migraines and sinusitis,” rues Dr. Veni. The problem is also that CT scans for migraines look completely normal.

Migraines can last anywhere between four hours and three days. A doctor can diagnose a patient with migraine after a prolonged observation. “We encourage patients who come with complaints of headaches to keep a migraine diary, where they can record all the things they did, what they ate and how much they slept before they got a headache,” says Dr. Veni.

Migraines are more prevalent in females than in males, with the incidence increasing during menstruation. Hormonal fluctuations are the trigger for menstrual migraines in women who take birth- control pills. Although not preventable, migraines can be controlled, says Dr. Veni, “Reducing everyday stress is the crux of migraine prevention. Relaxation training and yoga can also be beneficial.”

“Carrying an umbrella, not stepping out from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and most importantly staying hydrated can keep migraine at bay during summer,” says Dr. Veni.

“Migraine along with dehydration could be dangerous, M.A. Aleem, city-based neurologist and former Vice-Principal, KAP Viswanatham Government Medical College, said, adding: “It is better to cut down on travel when the heat is severe.”

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