Holiday Headache Triggers

The holidays are full of wonderful scents and sounds, tastes and feelings. The smell of a tangerine from the bottom of the stocking, the happy laughter of children opening gifts, a bite of chocolate, time spent with friends and family — it’s all wonderful, so why do you have a headache?

For some people, the scent of a Christmas tree is beautiful, but it can also be a major headache trigger. After a couple of weeks with pine boughs in your home, you might be suffering. Other common holiday scents that give people headaches include scented candles and even cinnamon.

Many special holiday foods are known to be headache triggers for some people. Cured meats like salami and ham, cheese, and chocolate can all cause headaches. Not only are these traditional holiday party foods for many of us, they’re also popular gifts. If you’re still snacking on those gifts, they could be the culprit in your holiday headache.

So can the tannins in coffee, red wine, and beer. With more holiday parties and more time around the table, it’s easy to drink more of these beverages than we usually do, without even realizing it.

Alcohol, even without tannins, can cause headaches if you drink too much. Avoid holiday hangovers by pacing yourself, drinking plenty of water (alternate water with cocktails), and eating before you indulge.

Travel can cause headaches, too. Flying, crossing datelines, and being cooped up in a car can add to holiday headaches. For some people, changes in daily routines can lead to headaches. Sleeping in and staying up late can both lead to headaches for some of us.

Stress is another headache trigger. Christmas can be both joyful and stressful, and by now, the excitement may be wearing off and the stress taking over.

If you’re experiencing headaches, consider these smart moves:

  • Get back to a regular schedule, including gym visits and eight hours or so of sleep.
  • Get back to healthy eating. Pack up the leftovers and special treats to give to friends, or cut back on rich foods and add salads to lighten up holiday meals.
  • Clear away any items that might be headache triggers for you.

If you still suffer from headaches after making these changes, contact your physician.

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