Community: Top comic joins migraine awareness drive

Comedian Jason Manford is joining forces with national charity Migraine Action to raise awareness of migraines this Christmas and to help reduce the chance of an attack ruining the festivities this year.

Presents left unopened under the tree, half-eaten Christmas dinners, cancelled family visits… Christmas should be a time of festive fun, yet for many migraine sufferers – a debilitating condition which affects one in seven people in the UK - the season of goodwill can make an attack even more likely and lead to misery, not only for the migraineur themselves, but also their family and friends.

Unfortunately many of the things we associate with Christmas, such as late nights, stress, excitement and festive food and drink, can be migraine triggers and recent survey by Migraine Action, a charity which offers support to children and adults with migraine, found that migraine has ruined Christmas for 65per cent of sufferers and more than half have experienced a migraine attack on Christmas Day itself.

It’s common for migraineurs to miss family gatherings and social engagements because of an attack but this is even more upsetting at Christmas. The guilt can be immense if mum or dad miss celebrating with the kids because they are lying in a darkened room after being struck down by an attack.

Jason says: “Too many people wrongly believe that migraine is ‘just a bad headache’, but I know what a distressing and debilitating condition it can be. Yet, with the right help, the impact of migraine can be greatly reduced, not only for the individual but also for their family and friends.”

To help reduce the chances of an attack ruining the celebrations this year, Migraine Action is encouraging people with migraine – a condition more common than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined, and which includes many symptoms including a severe one-sided headache, sickness, visual disturbances, numbness of the limbs, confusion and a sensitivity to light, sound or smell – to follow some simple tips:

Tips for a migraine-free Christmas

l Get organised: prepare well in advance to help avoid last minute panics and high levels of stress. Make time to relax and enjoy!

l Avoid flashing or flickering Christmas lights which can trigger attacks: if fluorescent lighting and Christmas decorations trigger your migraine, try wearing tinted glasses when you know they will be present.

l Try to make shopping stress-free: try internet shopping or visit stores at non-peak times when shops are less busy and are not so hot and stuffy.

l Eat regularly: mealtimes and the types of foods we eat can change over the festive period. Try to eat regularly and avoid sugary snacks to keep blood sugar levels stable. Avoid any foods that you believe are a particular trigger for you.

l Keep sleep patterns as normal as possible: late nights and even morning lie-ins can cause an attack.

l Drink sensibly: moderate your alcohol consumption and make sure you keep hydrated. Reduce your intake of caffeine and soft drinks containing artificial sweeteners.

l Get some fresh air and exercise: encourage the family to take an afternoon walk after Christmas lunch rather than slouching in front of the TV all day.

l Learn to say no: don’t take on too much, delegate tasks, and don’t feel obliged to eat or drink anything which you know may trigger a migraine for you.

l Take action fast: if you do feel an attack may be imminent, the earlier you take action / medication the better.

l Manage your migraine: although people with migraine often suffer in silence, there are many ways to help manage the condition. If you are worried about migraine ruining your Christmas celebrations or the coming year contact Migraine Action for advice on 0116 275 8317 or visit www.migraine.org.uk

Jason is also encouraging people to support the charity’s work this Christmas by sending a quick and easy text donation. Jason says: “Migraine Action gives vital support to people with migraine, which is why I am supporting their Christmas appeal.”

To support the charity’s work this Christmas text MIGR00 and the amount you wish to donate (i.e. MIGR00 £5) to 70070.