Health officials are reporting a more serious flu epidemic across the US than in previous years. In this newsletter, we'll look at why this is of special concern to migraine sufferers.

We'll also look at how to help keep wintery weather from triggering migraines, plus we'll look at whether warm packs or cold packs work better to ease migraine pain.

As always, we welcome your inputs about your own experiences as well as any topics you'd like us to address.

Amanda DiBenedetto

Linpharma Customer Education
Migraine Sufferers: Special Precautions for Cold & Flu Season

This winter, emergency rooms and doctors' offices are filled with patients suffering from flu and severe colds. While there's little that can be done to stop viruses in their tracks, medications help with symptoms such as fever, headaches and body aches. Whether you get a doctor's prescription for Tylenol 3 or rely on an OTC remedy like NyQuil, you need to be careful. Here's why:

You may already be taxing your liver. As a migraine sufferer, you may regularly take APAPs (medications that include acetaminophen) or NSAIDs like ibuprofen to control pain. Prolonged use of medications like these can, over time, increase your risk of liver damage. Adding in a heavy dose of additional NSAIDs or APAPs can cause further damage.

Aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and other NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are good at fighting fevers and relieving pain. But taking too much, too long or taking them too often can cause serious side effects. Plus, a study found that 25% of regular NSAID users took more than the recommended dose. Meanwhile, overuse of acetaminophen sends almost 80,000 people per year to the emergency rooms and is now the leading cause of liver failure in the US.

Look for more on NSAIDs and APAPs in next month's issue, but right now it's important to look closer at where you might be getting extra doses of APAPs and NSAIDs. Common cold and flu remedies can be big culprits.

It's so easy to overload. Consumer Reports says to be safe you should take no more than 3,250 mg of acetaminophen per day - even less if you drink alcohol which also taxes your liver. A Scottish study found that repeatedly exceeding 4,000 mg a day even for just a few days can cause brain, kidney and liver problems. Yet the maximum daily dose of Mucinex Severe Cold and Dristan Cold formulas each contain 3,900 mg of acetaminophen.

Practical precautions:
  • Check labels for acetaminophen (APAP) and NSAIDs
  • Calculate the daily dosage not just the strength of a single dose (e.g., if you take two tablets of 650 mg of extra strength acetaminophen every 8 hours, that adds up to 3,900 mg a day). 
  • Emphasize migraine prevention. The more you can do to keep attacks from occurring, the more you can avoid having to take medications for the pain.

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Hot vs. Cold: What Fights Migraine Pain Better?

Ice and heat can both help to lessen the pain of a headache. But while tension headaches respond better to heat, migraines seem to benefit most from cold packs. For best results, apply cold packs to your forehead and temples (vs. on the neck or back of the head which are where to apply hot packs). Remember that cold packs are a natural remedy that can be used safely in addition to medications or other therapies recommended by your healthcare provider.

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TRY THIS: Some of our readers recommend WellPatch Cooling Headache Pads, Migraine. They like the fact that these cooling sheets don't need to be refrigerated to work so they can keep them on hand during travel or at work. The pads come in packages of 6 for under $25 at 
Winter Weather: Migraine Prevention Tips

For many migraine sufferers, changes in weather can trigger attacks. Winter's drastic shifts in temperature, harsh winds, and falling barometer can be particularly challenging. Migraine sufferers should be especially alert to conditions such as these:

• Temperature changes
• High winds
• Stormy weather/barometric pressure drops
• Extremely dry conditions
• Bright lights and sun glare

You can't control the weather, but you can control other aspects of your lifestyle to minimize the chance that wintery changes will trigger migraine attacks. Check out our Quick Guide to Winter Migraine PreventionClick here.

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