Don’t let migraine be the scariest part of your Halloween and bonfire night celebrations !

By Andrea Quinn – Senior Communications Officer

31st October 2023

Do you have a preference for dark rooms and a dislike of strong scents like garlic? Maybe you’re a vampire, or perhaps you’re someone living with migraine. Below, we talk through some of the top migraine triggers you might encounter this Halloween and over Guy Fawkes night, and some suggestions for tackling them.

Scary scents

From bonfire smoke to that sickly sweet artificial pumpkin spice scent that seems to be pumped out of every shop at this time of the year, strong smells can be hard to avoid. For people with migraine, sensitivity to smell can be especially difficult, with many reporting that strong smells can either trigger a migraine attack or make them feel worse if they’re already dealing with one. If particular scents are a trigger for you, consider giving a heads-up to your companions and having a back-up plan if any ominous odours are causing mischief.

Frightening fireworks

Fireworks displays are a Halloween and bonfire night staple – the exciting atmosphere and beautiful colours lighting up the sky make for a spectacle to behold. Unfortunately, for those of us living with migraine, these dazzling light shows can be a real headache. Many people report bright or flashing lights as a trigger for their migraine attacks, or increased sensitivity to them as an early warning sign that an attack is coming. Certainly, many people experience sensitivity to light (photophobia) during migraine attacks. Around a third of people with migraine have migraine with aura, and may experience visual disturbances such as coloured spots or lines, flashing or flickering lights or zig-zag patterns: no need for a fireworks display when these symptoms are at play!

Tricked by treats

While getting dressed up in your spookiest costume and coming home with a bag full of sweets might sound like an ideal night, the migraine attack that might follow the next day is less than ideal. There are a few reasons why this can happen: many people associate sweets, particularly chocolate, as a migraine trigger, but actually a craving for sugary treats might have been an early warning sign that a migraine attack was incoming. As tempting as it might be to swap a healthy balanced dinner for a mountain of fun-size chocolate bars this Halloween, it’s worth noting that unstable blood sugar levels can make for a migraine horror story too; migraine is not caused by low blood sugar, but it can make migraine attacks more likely or the symptoms more painful. Try spacing out sweet treats and pairing them with more nutritious snacks and avoid skipping meals.


Avoiding thirst on the thirty-first

Beware the dangers of dehydration this spooky season! Whether you’re on a marathon trick or treating route with the little ones, or dancing the night away in fancy dress, the full-body costume complete with uncomfortably hot rubber witch mask is probably not the best option for anyone susceptible to dehydration-induced migraine attacks. Alcohol can also exacerbate mild dehydration so you might want to skip the witches brew cocktails or substitute them for an alcohol-free version.

RIP to routine

For some people, late  nights and changes to eating and sleeping patterns can often be a recipe for migraine attacks. Some events might start later than you’re used to and might lead to getting less sleep than usual. If changes to routine leave you feeling ghoulish, you are not alone! Consider planning in some self-care and rest time after an event.

Postponing your paranormal activities

You might find that learning more about migraine triggers and keeping a headache diary are helpful: this allows you to better spot patterns and early warning signs for migraine attacks.

Ultimately migraine can be incredibly unpredictable, and even after going to every effort to avoid triggers, a migraine attack can still creep up on us. Similarly, it might not be possible to avoid all triggers and it’s important not to be too hard on ourselves if that’s the case. Try talking to friends and family about what you need and don’t be afraid to change or cancel plans if you need to! Your health is more important, and plans can always be rescheduled.