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The Best Gifts to Give a College Student With Migraines

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When you have a chronic illness, going away to college can be a stressful event. I had dreamed for years of going to a university far outside my home state, hoping to explore a new corner of the U.S. I hadn’t yet ventured to. But midway through high school I was diagnosed with daily chronic migraines as well as postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), an autonomic dysfunction. Let’s just say that was not the best year of my life… However, by some miracle I was able to work through that difficult time and get to the point where my illnesses were manageable enough that I could consider going to a school far from my home and my doctors. Being at a school that’s nearly a 15-hour car ride away from those who know and understand my conditions was a scary thought at first, but once I got accustomed to the healthcare staff at my school and let a few trusted people know my story, things haven’t been so bad. Although, the college environment presents its own set of challenges: loud neighbors, long studying hours and the lure of the never-ending social events about every night of the week. When you have chronic migraines, you never know the next time one could strike you. Here’s a list of some of the things the migraine-afflicted college student in your life might appreciate receiving this holiday season:

Noise-Canceling Headphones

Migraines tend to leave me overly sensitive to noise, and quiet can be hard to come by, especially in a dormitory. Whether I’m having a migraine on a loud Friday night or want to shut it all out to try preventing one from coming on, noise-canceling headphones are a great commodity to have.

Best Buy has some good suggestions here from various price ranges.

Eye Mask

We like our holidays merry, but not too bright. Eye masks are a good idea for anyone with light sensitivity when trying to rest or sleep, but a dark space is especially important for someone experiencing a migraine. Eye masks are great because they can be used essentially wherever: in the dorm room, on public transportation or even if a bad one hits you in the library while studying.

There are some awesome options on Amazon if you simply search: “blackout eye mask for sleeping.”

Light-Blocking Curtains

In the same vein as the eye mask, light-blocking curtains could be a big help if your loved one is having a migraine during the day. Whether it’s sunlight or fluorescent light, neither helps ease the pain of a migraine. Darkness, however, does. Most dorms come with blinds which only do so much. Double check first on the school’s policies for hanging things like curtains in the dorm rooms, though.

You can find lots of options in department stores like Kohl’s, Target or places like Pottery Barn.

Wearable Ice Packs

Ice is one of the easiest remedies for headaches, and though it’s not a cure-all, it definitely helps. And what’s better than a hands-free ice pack that doesn’t keep sliding off your head whenever you move?

Check out some great examples here. And if one of these options are not easily accessible, the old-fashioned version (the kind you fill with ice) works well, too. Maybe add in an ice cube tray as well that they can put in their mini fridge’s freezer to have easy access to whenever they need it.

Magnesium-Filled Snacks

Research suggests that snacks that are high in magnesium may have some good effects on those afflicted by migraines. A college kid will always accept food, so it’s an easy and appreciated gift. You could also consider finding them some microwave-friendly recipes that involve any of the following foods: nuts and seeds, dark chocolate, bananas, dried fruit, whole grains or low-fat dairy.

Coffee or Tea

Staying on the trend of edible gifts, caffeine is something that can help some people recover from or prevent a migraine. For me personally, caffeine doesn’t seem to do much, but ask your migraineur their preference. Chances are the gift of a gift card to a local coffee shop near their campus, caffeinated tea bags, a Keurig and cups or a homemade mug would certainly be welcome.

“Do Not Disturb” Sign

If you’re a big DIYer, a cute homemade “Do Not Disturb” sign would be a thoughtful way to ease the anxiety of having a migraine while away at college. A sign would help to notify their roommate that they are having a migraine and need some peace and quiet, without having to explicitly tell the roommate themselves.


And finally, just showing them that you care about them and are at least trying to understand their struggle will go a long way. Whether that means giving them a pass when they say they can’t go out to that amazing, fun thing on a Saturday night or shooing some noisy people away when you see them having a hard time, just showing them how much you care about them in all the little things will mean the world.

Editor’s note: Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

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Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: December 13, 2016
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