Managing "Back to School" Season - Advice from a Headache Doctor

January 26, 2024
September 7, 2021
Managing "Back to School" Season - Advice from a Headache Doctor

"Back to school" season is an exciting time - whether it means getting your kids ready for a new school year, or you are heading to university or graduate school yourself.  But this season can definitely lead to some headache triggers.  Below, we'll give you a guideline on what to look out for, and how to best manage during this period of time. 


As exciting as back to school is, there are many inherent stressors.  Fear of the unknown is a potent trigger for anxiety and stress, and there are many things we worry about during this time of year.  This might be a good opportunity to go back to the things that help you de-stress, whether that is meditation, exercise or therapy...or even talking to a trusted friend.  

Getting organized ahead of the school year is optimal, but sometimes that can lead to its own stressors.  Always remember to be easy on yourself, and try to be as flexible as you can.  This year has the extra stress of managing the COVID-19 pandemic and the Delta strain.  Being vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19, and if you have further questions about safety, reach out to your primary care doctor to review your individual risk factors.  


School can be a challenge in the best of circumstances, and it can be even more difficult for people who experience migraine.  Lights, sounds, smells all can be profound triggers, and can make a migraine much worse once it has started.  Make sure you have a good migraine treatment plan for acute attacks with your doctor, and try to keep the treatments that work best for you on hand when you need them.  

You may need to discuss an accommodation plan with your school if a migraine does occur - is there a dark, quiet place you can rest during a migraine attack?  Will the school understand migraine as an excused absence?  Your doctor may need to provide specific documentation or fill out a medical form on your behalf. 


Your diet may significantly change when returning back to school.   Remember to try avoiding diet that particularly trigger your migraine attacks, like MSG and aspartame.  Watch your caffeine intake, and avoid alcohol (or specific forms of alcohol) if these are triggers for you.

Make sure you stay hydrated as well, since dehydration is one of the most common migraine triggers.  It may take some time to figure out which foods trigger your headaches - the Neura Health in-app tracker can help determine which foods or other triggers you should avoid. 


Sleep is absolutely essential to a functioning brain, and if you have migraine, regular sleep is even more important.  People who experience migraine thrive on a regular daily routine, and sleep the foundation of this routine.  Try your best to have a regular bedtime and wake-up time, and even on the weekends, don’t let it vary by more than an hour or so.  Try your best to avoid pulling an all-nighter - your brain is not meant to retain information that way anyway!  Do your best to keep sleep as regular as possible - this is one of the most effective ways to prevent migraines before they even start. 

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Thomas Berk, MD FAHS
Thomas Berk is Medical Director at Neura Health, where he treats Neura patients via video visit. He is a former Clinical Assistant Professor at the Department of Neurology at NYU Grossman School of Medicine.
About the Author
Thomas Berk, MD FAHS is Medical Director of Neura Health and a neurologist and headache specialist based in New York City. A former Clinical Assistant Professor at the Department of Neurology at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, he has over 12 years of clinical experience. He graduated from the NYU Grossman School of Medicine and completed his neurology residency at NYU as well. He completed a headache fellowship at the Jefferson Headache Center in Philadelphia. He is a Fellow of the American Headache Society and has been on the Super Doctors list of rising stars for the past five years.

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