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Asphalt Roofing Odors and Indoor Air Quality

Having someone put a new roof on your house doesn’t seem like it would be an exhausting experience, but here I am, physically and emotionally drained after a week of construction. You need some background to understand why I’m so wrecked, but I’ll keep it short because who really cares about my roof?

With my super-sensitive nose, I was reluctant to get an asphalt roof. After reading as much as I could find (not much) and talking with air quality experts, I was finally convinced that I wouldn’t be able to smell the roofing materials indoors. This was convenient because any changes to our roof would require special approval from the city’s historic preservation office, a fight for which I have no energy and Hart has no time. Also, another material would cost at least twice as much, which isn’t possible considering that we’re a year into starting a new business.

Demolition day produced an alarmingly strong odor in the house, which, of course, triggered a migraine attack. The odor — and the migraine — got worse each day. Although I kept the bedroom door shut and ran a medical facility-quality air filter in there, even the bedroom reeked. Not only were we woken up at 6:30 each morning by men tramping across and pounding on our roof, I was awake throughout the nights, convinced we’d just made an expensive decision that would worsen my migraine attacks.

Today, the roof is finished. It looks great, and, even better, doesn’t leak. Leaving the house open all night and a special $40(!) air conditioner filter diminished the odor greatly, though the smell is worsening as the day warms up. An hour ago, I believed I didn’t make a terrible decision that will exacerbate my migraine attacks. Now I’m not so sure. We’ll see how the house smells in a few hours. Let’s hope I have a good report that can reassure migraineurs and odor-sensitive people everywhere that asphalt roofs won’t worsen the condition.

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Migraine Awareness Month #1: Your First for the First

National Migraine Awareness Month Blog Challenge, Day 1: Share the story of your first Migraine, what it was like, if you knew what it was, what you did, how you felt.

Though I’ve had headaches all my life, they weren’t diagnosed as migraine until 2002 and it took me a few years to believe that headaches that weren’t one-sided, didn’t have a visual aura, and didn’t make me throw up were actually migraine. I don’t remember my first migraine — either it happened before I’m able to remember or it blends in with all the rest of the headaches — but I do remember the first migraine that was obviously triggered by an odor.

My fifth grade teacher left the door to the workroom open one afternoon and the smell or rose-scented potpourri wafted into the classroom. That smell is so vivid that even now, as I remember how much my head hurt and how nauseated I was, I’m convinced artificial rose scent is wafting in the air around me. I can clearly picture the classroom and where I was sitting. I went to the nurse, who let me lie down for a bit, then sent me back to class. To her it was, after all, “just a headache.”

I wish I could tell her it was one of many debilitating migraine attacks that I’ve had in my lifetime with this chronic neurological disorder. I sometimes wonder if I would be so disabled today if anyone had a clue about my “headaches” when I was young. While I don’t dwell on this — its not like migraine treatment 25 years ago was particularly effective — I beg parents, teachers, school nurses and doctors to take a child’s complaint of headache seriously. Anyone who spends time with children should know that “migraine” is not synonymous with “bad headache,” that headaches aren’t just an excuse not to go to class, and that painkillers don’t always do the trick.

National Migraine Awareness Month is initiated by the National Headache Foundation. The Blogger’s Challenge is initiated by Fighting Headache Disorders.

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Trip to Ikea Without a Meltdown or Migraine!

Fluorescent lights, new furniture smells, swarms of shoppers wandering without regard to others, groups enraptured by the store’s wonders and standing in the walkway, the inability to get through the store without walking the predefined path. The joys of Ikea. Despite these obstacles, I like the place.

It’s just that I have a meltdown nearly every time I shop at Ikea. The plethora of migraine triggers and my inability to regulate time or make decisions while I’m there add to the aforementioned obstacles.

I strategize before each Ikea excursion. I need:

  • To eat enough ahead of time to sustain me
  • Caffeine, but not too much
  • A large, full water bottle
  • Sunglasses
  • To go when the store opens
  • Hart, to keep me on track (although this often backfires as he is mesmerized by the possibilities)

I usually don’t follow my guidelines. This was no exception. I’d eaten, but was hungry by the time I parked. I ordered three shots in my latte instead of the usual two. My large water bottle was dirty, so I had to settle for the 14 ouncer. The sunglasses spent more time on top of my head than on my face. I arrived an hour after the store opened. Hart was at work.

I kind of stuck with the plan and it seems to have worked. No shaking, fuming or tears. No migraine. I did however, buy more curtains than I have windows to cover. The kicker is that I ran an hour of errands afterward, drove the 30 minutes home and rested for another 30; then I wrote for two hours before picking Hart up.

The day after wasn’t even too bad. My head was bad in the morning, but no other symptoms were present. I met Hart for lunch and ran some errands. I felt icky and headachy in the afternoon, so I rested for a bit between doing things around the house.

It was a big accomplishment. I feel like I can tackle the trip to return the extra curtains. If I adhere to my strategy even better, I might achieve a greater level of accomplishment.

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Headache Only One of Migraine’s Many Symptoms

More than half of people with migraine experience nausea, neck pain, or sensitivity to lights, sounds or smells during a migraine, yet few doctors regularly ask about symptoms other than headache. These findings, from a National Headache Foundation survey, include only a partial list of possible migraine symptoms.

Migraine Goes Beyond Head Pain
(National Headache Foundation press release)

Chicago, IL – August 13, 2008 – Migraine sufferers often experience a series of associated symptoms in addition to migraine head pain, according to a recent survey conducted by the National Headache Foundation (NHF). Survey results reveal that more than 50% of respondents said they frequently or always experience symptoms such as nausea, neck pain, or sensitivity to lights, sounds or smells when suffering from a migraine. Additionally, 78% of respondents said their healthcare professional does not regularly inquire about associated symptoms experienced beyond actual migraine head pain.

“It is extremely important for headache sufferers to talk with their healthcare professionals about symptoms occurring in conjunction with pain,” said Dr. Roger Cady, Vice President and Board member of NHF. “Diagnosis of migraine is based in part on associated symptoms or characteristics such as nausea, vomiting or sensitivity to lights but communication about the entire migraine experience aids your medical provider with proper diagnosis, understanding you, and your specific treatment needs.”

Of those respondents experiencing nausea or vomiting along with their migraine head pain, many reported having to delay taking migraine medication or taking additional medication to manage their nausea. Others said they alternate an injectable form of migraine medication instead of swallowing a pill.

In order to manage migraine head pain and associated symptoms, the majority of survey respondents said they try to maintain a regular sleep schedule, eat balanced meals and reduce stress.

Additional NHF survey results:

  • 78% of survey respondents reported missing work due to migraine pain and/or its associated symptoms.
  • 84% said they frequently or always experience throbbing pain on one-side of their head with their migraine.
  • When asked to rate their migraine pain on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being unbearable, 56% of respondents said their migraine pain is typically between a 7 and 8.

NHF’s tips for dealing with migraine head pain and associated symptoms:

  • Get help. Discuss the associated symptoms of your migraine with your healthcare provider. S/he can help you determine your treatment options.
  • If you experience nausea or vomiting as associated symptoms of your migraine, talk with your healthcare provider about other forms of your medication such as injections, nasal sprays or tablets that do not require drinking water to take them.
  • Avoid identifiable migraine triggers and practice a healthy lifestyle.
  • Track your migraines. Write down when your migraines occur. Bring your results to your healthcare professional to review. A free downloadable headache diary is available at www.headaches.org.

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Migraine Reprieve Ends: Welcome Back, Nausea

Is it normal for a visit to the grocery store to make someone want to throw up? Namely, me. At the Whole Foods downtown. Granted, a huge hot food section, lots of stinky cheeses, and two kiosks of made-to-order Asian food makes it particularly smelly. But still.

My head may be in less pain, but the nausea has returned full force. Clearly the my migraines haven’t retreated, only the pain. I actually developed the aversion to eating a few days ago, but the over-the-top nausea just kicked in.

Being honest with myself, I know that my “good week” wasn’t as grand as it seemed. It meant an extra good hour each day with an awesome day and a half on Tuesday and Wednesday. After walking less than a mile yesterday, my body felt as if I’d run five. The gentle yoga practice I did upon returning home increased the exhaustion. All the signs of an impending migraine were there whether I wanted to pay attention to them or not.

Now my head is sore to the touch (allodynia) and tears are streaming from my eyes (a sure sign for me that a migraine is coming). I didn’t ever consider that the effects of reducing my neck and shoulder pain were longterm. Even so, I hate when the good times end.

As usually happens, Hart missed my low pain, high energy days. I’m going to try to eat some lunch and relax for a bit. Maybe the migraine will let up before I pick him returns from work.