How to Help Someone When They Have a Migraine

How to help someone with migraines

Migraines are an incredibly painful neurological event that can cause a whole range of symptoms. But what is pretty universal is the significant interruption most experience in their day-to-day when they are in the midst of an episode. Migraines can make even the most basic tasks impossible, let alone big responsibilities like taking care of children or going to work.

If you know someone who experiences migraines, you may feel bad for them and helpless because you can’t understand their pain. But there are incredibly helpful things you can do that will lessen their misery. Here are a few nice things you can do that will provide some non-pain related relief:

1.    Make sure they have access to migraine relief

“How can I help make you more comfortable?” is a great first question. The migraine may have come on so suddenly that the sufferer may not have taken the necessary steps to help ease the pain. That’s where you come in. Ensuring the migraine sufferer has all the things that help alleviate the migraine or at least make it more bearable is an important first step. Here’s a quick set of questions you can go through:

-       Do you want to take anything for the pain? Can I get it for you?

-       Do you want an ice or heat pack?

-       Do you want me to close the shades?

-       How’s the temperature in here? Do you want me to make it hotter or colder?

-       Do you want me to take your phone off the hook?


2.    Make sure they are fed

A migraine sufferer may be so nauseous that the last thing they want to think about is food. However, it’s important that they don’t go too long without eating, as low blood sugar can only add fuel to the migraine fire. Providing food for a day or two would help ensure that the migraine sufferer has one less thing to think about, while also providing important nourishment that would likely otherwise be neglected. Feel free to bring over one of your signature dishes or, if you're not much of a cook, order take-out from your favorite neighborhood restaurant.


3.    Help them take care of their kids (or dog, cat, etc.)

The basic needs of a child or pet do not stop when someone has a migraine, which can compound a migraine sufferer’s misery. Relieving them of the responsibilities of those that are most dependent on them will be an enormous help. For children, you can offer to drop them off or pick them up from school, arrange a play date so they are out of the house for a few hours, or hire a babysitter to take care of them. If they have a furry friend, you can offer to take their dog for a walk or arrange for a dog-walker to drop by. They key is to help the migraine sufferer outsource this responsibility so they can get back to resting as soon as possible!


4.    Accompany them to the doctor

Sometimes the migraine sufferer might be so sick that they need to go to the doctor (or the ER, chiropractor, masseuse, acupuncturist, etc.). But it might be extremely difficult for someone with a migraine to get out of the house, let alone get to a place that is a drive or taxi ride away. Accompanying the migraine sufferer to make sure they safely get to where they need to go and waiting with them will alleviate a lot of stress for that person.


5.    Hang out with them if they want company

A migraine episode, particularly one that lasts for multiple days can be incredibly isolating. Most of the time the sufferer may want to be alone, but chances are, at some point, they will want some company to distract from the migraine misery. Offering to just sit with them on the couch or watch a show with them (if they can open their eyes) is not only comforting but will really help the time go by!


6.    Help through the migraine “hangover”

I call the day after a migraine episode the migraine hangover because the migraine sufferer likely emerges from the episode in a hazy fog. Plus they will have to catch up with everything they missed out on while they have the migraine, which can be very stressful. If you weren’t able to help the migraine sufferer during the episode, don’t underestimate how much help you can provide after the pain is gone. See if you can lessen the burden of their pent-up responsibilities by helping out with the suggestions above. Having dinner ready to go or the kids picked up from school will go a long way in helping someone recover quicker from a migraine haze!


Inevitably, sometimes the migraine might be so bad that there is nothing you can do to help the person you care about. But sometimes just the fact that you’re making the effort is enough to make the person feel a tiny bit better. Have any other suggestions of how you can help a migraine sufferer? I would love to hear it!