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13 Ways to Enjoy the Summer With Migraine

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This time last year I was having a very troubling realization — the activities I knew and loved that came with summertime were no longer really options for me. I struggle with intense heat…and hey, I live in South Carolina. It’s going to be 90 degrees by the end of the week, and 100 degrees is also in the 10 day forecast…yuck!

I also have a hard time with humidity and some days I can’t tolerate the sunlight. So where does that leave me when it comes to participating in summer activities? Honestly, it leaves me a bit left out. So I wanted to compose a list of slightly South Carolina-specific ideas about how someone with migraine can still enjoy the summer.

1. Petting zoos.

We’ve got the coolest petting zoo/bee sanctuary near my house and if you ask me, this is honestly the perfect summer activity. For the most part, the zoo is shaded and it is fairly small. It’s an outing that can be as short as an hour, or last up to three hours. There’s bathrooms on-sight, a small area to have a quick bite to eat and an indoor air-conditioned building (these three things are incredibly important if I do get overheated and need to rest).

A petting zoo isn’t going to be ideal on days where it’s super hot and humid, but being local it can be a spur of the moment activity on a nice day. I wouldn’t recommend the petting zoo for people with environmental allergies or for people with animal allergies.

2. Stargazing at the beach.

For the most part, I’m most active and feeling my best in the evening and into the night. Going to the beach at night has a lot more perks than going during the day: there is no hot sun shining in your face, lots of free parking and not too many people around. It’s truly a peaceful way to spend an evening. For me, watching the sunset and hearing the waves crash against the coast, while being able to sit in silence and enjoy the cooler temperatures under the stars is the best kind of experience there is. It’s a great place to catch up with friends or unwind at the end of a long day. Plus, you can get a bit of exercise in and walk along the shoreline.

My local beach is great, as there are nearby restaurants along with a gas station and local convenience shop where you can grab food if needed or use the restroom. Although I can’t always drive myself to the beach, odds are good that I’d never say no to going.

3. Outdoor evening concerts.

The keywords here are “evening” and “outdoor.” Where I live we have Party in the Park happening every Tuesday in June, but throughout the rest of the summer there’s other free and paid concerts across town. This particular type of event can be good and bad, though. Here’s the good:

  • if the weather is nice, it’s a wide open area with a nice breeze
  • there’s food and drinks available for purchase
  • there’s indoor bathrooms on site
  • it’s early evening
  • since it’s a large venue, the music isn’t very loud and it’s much more of a social gathering than a concert

And the not so good:

  • it storms like 90% of the time so the grounds are either wet or its hot and humid
  • little to no shade
  • getting there during rush hour traffic is enough to induce a migraine

But since it’s free, it’s another great option available for days where I feel great and even better if I’ve got someone else who can drive.

4. Summer movie mights (on the beach).

Most places have some sort of summer movie night event that lasts all summer long – sometimes it’s discounted prices at the local theater, maybe you’ve got a drive-in theater, or in my case my local beach hosts a movie night each week. The best part is they keep the bathrooms on the pier open these nights. It’s free and since it happens every week, it’s a great event that can be even better for families. All movies are PG-13 and start at sunset.

5. Going out to eat.

It’s summer and one of my favorite things to do is spend time exploring restaurants I haven’t been to yet. However, eating out poses more than just one challenge for me. But working around the challenges, there’s a few things to focus on so that I can enjoy trying new places this summer:

  • ensuring there’s indoor seating with functional AC
  • planning to go out to eat during a slow time (10 a.m. or 2 p.m. or even an early dinner at 4 p.m.) eliminates much of the crowds and noise
  • going over the menu beforehand
  • avoiding places that need a reservation because sometimes I can’t avoid having to cancel

6. Planning a small staycation or vacation.

Although Airbnb’s tend to be a bit more expensive during the summer months, their existence means we don’t have to rely on hotels that don’t meet our needs. Booking a place for a few days that’s quiet, has a kitchen and a relaxing space to sit outside and enjoy the weather is an ideal quick summer getaway.

The kitchen gives me the option to opt out of going to a restaurant or being forced to eat quick fast food, while having an entire space gives me the option to retreat if I’m truly just not feeling good.

Pick a place that has curtains and isn’t in someone’s home – a guest house is fine, but sharing space with strangers and trying to explain the whole chronic illness thing isn’t fun. Also, if it is a mini-vacation make sure you’re going to areas that have nearby medical facilities that are in network for people’s insurance. Camping or places that require dramatic changes in environment aren’t going to be good options.

7. Paint and sip/painting or cooking classes.

Personally, I’ve always wanted to take a class like this and I truly don’t care if I attend a paint and sip and opt out of the sipping portion. Simply getting to go is fun enough.

These classes and how tolerable they are will range depending on materials or what’s being cooked – personally a watercolor class would be preferred over stinky oil based paints because of the risk for scent triggers.

When it comes to food, we’re all aware of allergies or food scent intolerances so it can be easier to pick. For example, there’s a macaron making class that I’d love to participate in. These classes do require some planning and aren’t as easy to opt out of, but it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if someone had a back-up person to bring if I had to bail last minute.

Sometimes these options are overpriced or not available nearby or during convenient times. Sometimes they require a larger group to go for it to even be booked. The perfect alternative is to do a little research and host your own craft type party. There’s plenty of craft stores and even Walmart carries basic supplies to make your own paint and sip party. This is a great option as well if you want to avoid the risk of canceling and losing the deposit you paid.

8. Old school game night or movie night.

A simple way to spend time with those you love, especially on days where you aren’t up to being out in the sun or driving or spending much money, is to invite family or friends over to play board games or watch a movie and do face masks. It’s simple, doesn’t require a ton of energy and pajamas are 100% acceptable to wear.

9. Attend or host a barbecue.

This is really only 100% ideal if the weather cooperates but hey, you don’t have to suffer from migraines to agree with that. Personally, I know there’s plenty of foods that I love at a barbecue that I may not be able to eat. Offer to bring some food and you may encourage the host to have everyone bring a little something. This gives you a diverse range of food and allows you to tailor what you bring to your exact needs.

Try and find a shady spot to sit, as this will help keep you cooler throughout the event. Bring good, dark sunglasses and swap alcohol for water. Being hydrated and cool is the best way to enjoy and survive an outdoor barbecue without causing or worsening a migraine.

10. Have a bonfire.

This is my personal favorite, and I’m fortunate the fire scent doesn’t have any impact on my migraines, although I recognize this may not hold true for other migraineurs. Bonfires are at night, so you don’t have to worry about the sun. The heat from the bonfire may be problematic, but it’s easy to congregate a bit away from the bonfire.

11. Go to the river, lake or your local waterfalls.

For me, these waterfront locations may have some less than friendly snakes and gators, but there is a lot of shade and the water is nice and cool. If you don’t have a pool, this is the next best thing to simply spend the day floating down the river or on the lake and doesn’t require a ton of extra planning, so it can be more spontaneous for a day where it isn’t too hot.

12. Soak up the sun.

This sounds incredibly contradictory, but soak up the sunshine – in the morning and early afternoon, especially if you’re feeling good. Sunshine is so good for us. It’s hottest during the peak of the afternoon and going into early evening, so if you want to get out and enjoy the pool, beach, lake or park go early!

13. Meet for iced coffee.

You can even meet for hot coffee! As incredible as checking out new restaurants may be, large meals and heat don’t go well. Grabbing coffee or ice cream is a great way to still get out without making your body react to the heat.

All in all, there’s plenty of summer activities that don’t involve the blistering heat. Heat makes my pain worse. Heat makes my stomach upset. My medicine makes me not sweat the same.

Heat is one aspect, but so are other triggers like a lot of commotion and a lot of noise. Spending my days perusing in a tourist packed town or visiting various festivals sounds like a ton of fun, but it isn’t something I can tolerate yet.

There’s plenty of easy, laid back and fairly inexpensive activities to partake in even in the blistering southern heat.

The most important things to look for in activities that didn’t make my list are easy access to bathrooms, nearby food/water, shade and minimal effort to get to the activity. Air conditioning is a huge bonus and so is free parking and low cost of the activity. The best rule of thumb is to pay attention to if the place or activity is sensory-friendly, and if there’s a quick place I can retreat to if need be.

Even though I can’t commit to everything, sometimes a simple invite goes a long way for me, especially when it’s an invite that’s truly considerate to my needs.

How do you enjoy the summer while battling migraine? Tell us in the comments.

A version of this story was originally published on

Photo submitted by contributor.

Originally published: June 3, 2019
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