By David Silvers, M.D.
Almost everybody has experienced a headache, the most common neurological symptom, at some point during their lifetime. Most individuals who suffer from headaches have a primary headache condition, such as tension-type headache or migraine. Not surprisingly, migraines are frequently exacerbated during the holiday season; some of the reasons for it are more obvious than others.
Common migraine/headache triggers include stress, a change in eating or sleep patterns, jet lag, change in altitude, alcohol or even unaccustomed odors. Do any of these sound like something you might experience between thanksgiving and new year’s day? Many of these triggers may be unavoidable during the holidays, but an awareness of the relationship between the triggers and the migraine headaches may prove useful for avoiding them altogether.
Once the holidays passed, and you find yourself suffering from headaches past Janurary 2nd, what should you do? When should you be concerned that your headache may reflect a serious underlying condition? Dr. David Dodick, a Mayo Clinic headache specialist, coined the mnemonic “SNOOP4 headache” to address your very relevant question. The “S” stands for “systemic” symptoms such as fever or weight loss. The “N” stands for “neurological” signs such as confusion. The two “O’s” stand for sudden “onset” and “older” adult, meaning older than 50. The 4 “P’s” refer to a change in the “previous” headache history, a “persistent” and/or “progressive” headache or a headache “precipitated” by coughing or one which is present primarily while upright. Finally, beware of the single, unusual, headache. An individual who has 1 or more of the “SNOOP4 headache” red flags may require further investigation, typically by a neurologist, to determine the underlying cause. Remember that even with these red flags, you still may have a primary headache disorder, but this can only be determined after a thorough evaluation.
With or without red flags, if you are having frequent or disabling headaches, you may want to seek help from a neurologist. In order to treat headaches appropriately, one must have an accurate diagnosis. A secondary headache condition might only improve after treating the underlying disorder. A primary headache condition, such as migraine, is managed with medications to eliminate the pain, and by
employing preventative strategies.
So go ahead and enjoy your holidays!!
Help is on the way…..
David Silvers, M.D.
Board Certified in Neurology, Electrodianostic Medicine/EMG, and Neuromuscular Medicine
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3401 PGA Blvd., Suite 430
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410
"Snooping" for headaches during the holidays
By David Silvers, M.D.