That throbbing pain comes out of nowhere, but you know it’s only just the start. Then comes the nausea. You want to vomit. Light becomes agony, and every sound feels like it’s drilling through your skull. Your body tingles with pain. You can’t see; everything is just a blur, and thinking is impossible. You can barely move, and the whole world gets reduced down to that agony that just won’t quit. It could go on for hours, or days – it’s impossible to know.
They suck at the best of times, and can be a disaster at the worst. During a survival situation, the onset of a migraine can literally spell life or death. This all might seem a bit hyperbolic to anyone who has never experienced a migraine firsthand. They’re not normal headaches. For one, it’s a headache more painful than childbirth.
Secondly, most ordinary headaches have fairly banal causes, such as dehydration or too much blood to the brain. Migraines, on the other hand, are a different kettle of fish. Most experts agree they have something to do with irregular levels of serotonin, a chemical the body uses to send signals between nerve cells.
However, migraines themselves remain poorly understood, and their exact causes are unclear at best. The most common theory you’ll hear is that they’re probably genetic – not exactly a helpful tidbit for sufferers, as it basically implies that anyone living with these nightmares will probably be stuck with them for a lifetime. This means that migraine prevention and treatment should be a top priority for any survivalist with a history of these life-stopping bouts of pain. Anything you need to prevent or treat migraines must be included in everything from your bug out bag to safe house. Frustratingly though, that can be easier said than done.
As any migraine sufferer knows, reliable treatment is extremely difficult to come across. In my own experience, migraines are almost impossible to stop once they get started. When the migraine is in full bloom, all you can do is sit back and strap yourself in for the ride, which could last anywhere from three hours to three days. During this period, the sufferer is effectively incapacitated and will be largely reliant on other people for most basic needs.
Most migraine sufferers agree the easiest solution is prevention. First, keep an eye out for early warning signs. A day or two before onset, you might notice mood swings, thirst, excessive urination or constipation. Unusual food cravings or neck stiffness can also be signs of an impending migraine. If you suspect a migraine is on its way, the first thing to do is simply take it easy. Migraines are often brought on by over-exertion or stress (two common issues in any survival situation). You may also have some specific trigger, such as a pungent smell or food. Even painkillers themselves may cause migraines. Along with avoiding triggers, you should also generally avoid fatty foods, which can exacerbate the problem.
Some tried-and-true natural options for reducing the risk of migraines include:
All of these natural options have some level of scientific confirmation that they can help some people some of the time. On the other hand, I’d suggest not even bothering with the much-touted magnesium supplement, which has been shown to simply not work. Homeopathy is likewise a total waste of time and money. In fact, generally speaking, anyone offering fast and easy guaranteed migraine prevention is (intentionally or not) likely misleading you. There are always exceptions, but for most migraine sufferers there’s just no easy way out.
While prevention is better than a cure, there are a few somewhat helpful treatments for reducing the intensity and length of a migraine. The most reliable treatment is Sumatriptan delivered via injection, which has been proven to work a little over half the time. Often retailing for well over $200 per pack, Sumatriptan is also ridiculously expensive, so most survivalists will probably want to keep the stuff for only the worst of emergencies. Nonetheless, it’s not a bad idea to include a few Sumatriptan shots in your bug out bag.
Common, cheaper over the counter alternatives include Excedrin, Motrin and Advil Migraine pills. They might work for some people some of the time, but are notoriously unreliable for the majority of sufferers. Plus, they can have some nasty long term health effects. A full list of other options can be found here. Whether or not any will work for you is anyone’s guess.
Ultimately, for many migraine sufferers, life is a matter of trial and error, and making use of whatever treatment seems to work best for the individual. If you find something that works for you, stock up and make sure it becomes a staple item in your survival kit. Also, ensure any companions know where the medication is, and how to administer it. Beyond that, there’s not much more you can do than keep an eye out for warning signs, and avoid anything you know can set you off. With a bit of planning, preparation and luck, you’ll survive.