November 21, 2022
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Photography by Mal de Ojo Studio/Stocksy United
Music concerts can involve factors that trigger a migraine attack. Here are the steps I take to prepare for an event.
If you’re like me, you may be thrilled to finally be going out, vaxxed and masked, into the world again. Going to live music events is one of the things I missed most throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, going to music concerts have always presented unique challenges to me because I live with migraine. There are tons of factors that can make music concerts triggering for those of us with migraine, including the loud noise and the lighting.
There are increasingly stringent restrictions as well about what we can bring inside, and sometimes I worry about my migraine rescue toolkit not making it through security.
With the high price of concert tickets, it’s the kind of event that I’d loathe to miss due to a migraine attack. The good news is that even with chronic migraine I’ve found ways to still enjoy attending these events.
After going to several shows, from relatively smaller 3,000- to 5,000-person venues for acts like Lil Nas X and Carly Rae Jepson, to stadium shows like Harry Styles at Madison Square Garden (an audience of 20,000) and BTS at SoFi Stadium in LA with 70,000 people, I’ve put together my best tips.
Before the concert, check out the venue’s website to see what information they share for disability accommodations. Some have special entrances and exceptions to bag rules or prohibitions on certain items.
Some venues even have quiet rooms available for low stimulation. These rooms can be great for an escape while you wait for meds to work. This can be a game-changer if you’re at a concert that requires showing up early and waiting for a long time before the show itself starts.
Sound can be a migraine trigger. Even if you don’t live with migraine, protecting your hearing is important. Luckily, many companies now make earplugs designed to allow you to still hear the music without experiencing serious damage to your hearing.
Plenty of websites have done reviews field-testing different earplug options at a range of price points.
Many venues have shifted to clear bag protocols. While many of my friends try to carry as little as possible, I know that I feel better when I have everything I’d need if a migraine attack arises.
Most stadiums, or even smaller venues, actually allow for larger bags than one might expect. I was able to find a backpack that adheres to the required dimensions. Inside, I can fit my wallet, my migraine rescue kit, a water bottle, a lightweight fleece, earplugs, and other essentials.
Sometimes I even bring a second pair of socks and shoes, if I’m going to be standing for a long time in lines before the show, like at a festival or for floor tickets.
I keep my travel migraine rescue kit all in one container. I do this so that if I face any questions from security, I can pull out a single object and explain that everything within it is for medical purposes. This way I avoid having things loose within my larger bag.
I also bought a clear plastic makeup bag to hold my migraine kit, so I’m not breaking any rules. So far, no one has ever stopped me or asked about it. For medications, I typically bring just a few more doses than what I would need.
This way, if an overzealous security guard were to confiscate my pill bottle, I wouldn’t be stuck without them after the concert. This is especially important if you’ve traveled away from home for a show.
For me, having enough to eat is a big part of setting myself up for success and staving off potential migraine episodes. I like to be in control of what and when I eat. This can be difficult at concerts, especially if there are long lines or you go with a group.
If I’m with a group and we don’t have dining plans for before the concert, I either suggest plans myself, or I make a snack to bring along with me.
Especially if you’re going to be spending a lot of time outside the venue, whether tailgating or in lines to get through security, you’ll have plenty of time to eat before going into the event.
When I saw BTS in Los Angeles, I brought two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with me to eat. This held me over between when we left the house and when we made it inside the venue. It helped me to have something solid to eat, and I didn’t have to feel dependent on anyone else.
Once inside a venue, I like to make sure I know where I’d be able to buy any supplies I might need that night, like a sports drink, caffeinated soda, chocolate, or a snack. Many venues also sell coffee. For some, caffeine can help fend off an attack.
Making sure I am hydrated can also help me avoid an attack. I often have sports drink mix packets in my migraine kit anyway, but if I’m feeling a bit off on the way into the venue, I might go grab a Gatorade or Coke on the way to my seat to drink as needed.
Try to remember that your health is the most important thing. Sometimes those of us with migraine have no choice but to cancel our plans at the last minute.
There are so many events I missed during the pandemic and many I missed over the years due to migraine attacks. Because of this, I have been trying my best to get out and safely enjoy activities and shows.
It can take some preparation when you live with migraine, but we deserve to be out in the world having fun and seeing our favorite musicians, too.
Medically reviewed on November 21, 2022
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