Updated 19 January 2016

How to handle headaches during the holidays

Holidays should be a happy time for families to enjoy outings, going to concerts and festivals, theme parks, or spending time in the sun at the coast. However these pleasures can be traumatic for many headache sufferers.

Headaches are often unavoidable and it's so much worse when they occur during the holidays.

Children with migraines often cannot participate in the family fun, and land up getting depressed, sad and withdrawn.

It is sometimes very difficult for them to express what they are going through so their families may find them moody, difficult and needy.

Dr Elliot Shevel, South African Migraine Surgery Pioneer and Medical Director of The Headache Clinic says that, “some children feel misunderstood and become isolated because they are not always taken seriously when they speak about their headaches.

In other cases, many parents are concerned about the health impacts of giving their children chronic medication to take for their headaches or migraines.”

Through his groundbreaking medical research, Dr Shevel has pioneered breakthrough Migraine Surgery which is minimally invasive and has successfully treated many headaches sufferers including children from as young as 11 years old.

Read: Surgery may help for migraines

Chanel Kilpady, now age 12 came to South Africa from Melbourne, Australia, to visit the Headache Clinic in Johannesburg said she had to give up all her hobbies and missed weeks of school at a time because of the debilitating headaches they triggered.

“I did ice skating but I had to stop that because I got headaches. The medicine helped a little bit and then it wore off. I missed lots of days of school. I didn’t do swimming because the chlorine would make me get a headache, so I used to just sit and watch. I felt like I wasn’t part of it. I got frustrated and angry. I was sad a lot.”

It can also become a great challenge for parents to cater to the needs of all their children, especially if one suffers with chronic headaches and migraines.

In some cases the condition of the child in pain eclipses the needs of their other children, resulting in jealousy or resentment. Yet in other families the children with migraine may not get the care they need because their headaches are not taken seriously.

Through a multi-disciplinary diagnostic approach, The Headache Clinic often learns that the children they treat have previously been told by their doctors or family members that their pain is all in their minds.

“This leaves the child feeling very alone, confused and guilty for ‘imagining’ their pain” says Dr Shevel.

Read: Migraines take a huge toll on families

Chanel Kilpady, however is now able to participate again in the activities she had been forced to miss, “(after having treatment).

"I haven’t had any big headaches since. I can do more stuff and get involved. I’ve been to Katy Perry concert. that was good. I like how she sings and her style. I also went to see One Direction and I’m doing dancing again. I tried out for the school production and I can go swimming.”

Read more about children and headaches

Parents often suffer in silence

There is unfortunately another side to the family headache reality which affects a greater percentage of families, and that is the quiet suffering of parents afflicted with headaches. Often their relationships with their families are put under constant strain due to their attacks and their impaired ability to cope with everyday life.

Many headache and migraine sufferers prefer to be left lying alone in a cool dark quiet room, and often feel extremely tired, antisocial and irritable.

So school holiday time can be even more overwhelming with the added pressure of entertaining kids who are home for the school holidays, while managing their households, and end of year work deadlines.

Feelings of guilt and depression can take parents down an emotional spiral, that when combined with debilitating pain often affects their relationships with their families and spouses, sometimes beyond repair.

Read: The migraine-depression link

Karen Desmarais from Wierdapark Pretoria, had been a migraine sufferer since the age of 14.

“The migraines escalated to twice a week and I am 58 years of age now.

I use to get extremely depressed and had thoughts of giving up at times, as I felt I had no way of fighting it.

This was no way,” she said. “It also affected my family as I became a hermit.”

Karen read an article on The Headache Clinic in a local magazine and also went for the non-drug treatment.

“My husband, family and friends have all commented on how I look so much better and not as pale as I used too, even my pharmacist is overawed, no more migraines or even small headaches.”

Click here to read Karen’s full story at the Headache Clinic website.

If your headaches are affecting you or your child, please contact us on 0861 678 911 or visit our website at to speak to our specialists about how we accurately diagnose and treat the underlying cause of the pain using non-drug treatments.
You can also ask Dr Elliot a question right here on our website by visiting his Question and Answer forum

Read more:

Acupuncture eases migraines
Anaesthetic may ease headaches
Treatment options for headaches and migraines


Ask the Expert

Headache expert

Dr Elliot Shevel is a South African migraine surgery pioneer and the founder and medical director of The Headache Clinic in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, South Africa. The Headache Clinic is a multidisciplinary practice dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of Primary Headaches and Migraines. Dr Shevel is also the main author of all scientific publications generated by his team. He recently won a high level science debate in which he was able to prove that the current migraine diagnosis and classification is not based on data. Tertiary Education - Dr Shevel holds both Dental and Medical degrees, and practises as a specialist Maxillo-facial and Oral Surgeon. Follow the Headache Clinic on Twitter@HeadacheClinic.

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