Migraine is a neurological disease that causes a severe headaches and other symptoms.

The head pain associated with migraine can be debilitating. It can prevent people from going to work or school and participating in their usual routine.

“In an ideal world, you wouldn’t drive a car during a migra episode. The physical limitations and impaired thinking ability can make driving unsafe.”

“Many people with migraines need to get home from work, pick up a child, or go to the doctor’s office.”

Is it safe to drive with a migraine, and are there ways to reduce the risks? The science says that driving with a migraine is not safe.

What is migraine?

While more than 10% of people worldwide experience migraine, it’s often misunderstood as just a “bad headache.” Migraine can be infrequent or chronic, occurring multiple times per week or month. Episodes can last for hours or days.

Many people will have throbbing pain on one or both sides of their head during a migraine episode. They are forced to retreat from their daily lives until the pain passes.

There may be stages of migraines before and after an episode.

  • There is brain fog.
  • “Is it possible that I’m Irrisponsible?”
  • dizziness
  • extreme fatigue.
  • There is a visual disturbance.

Although it can be difficult to avoid driving during a migraine episode, it is not a safe activity.

Research into the effects of migraine on driving is sparse, but there are two potential issues: the neurological symptoms that occur during an episode and the side effects of any medications you may be taking to prevent or treat episodes.

Your doctor or pharmacist will tell you if your medication will limit you from driving.

Common medications like sumatriptan can make you dizzy or sleepy. Anti-nausea medications can make you drowsy, too.

Doctors usually recommend that you avoid driving or operating heavy machinery after taking these types of medications. In fact, one newer medication, lasmiditan, has a specific warning that you cannot drive or operate heavy machinery for at least 8 hours after taking it.

It can be difficult to assess your own symptoms against your ability to drive. You might feel confident in your ability to travel.

But the American Migraine Foundation advises people with migraine to avoid driving during any stage of a migraine episode since symptoms can get suddenly worse.

There are a number of migraines that can make driving unsafe. Here are some of the most common ones.

Nausea and vomiting

Nausea is hard to deal with while driving. It is nearly impossible to keep your eyes open while you are vomiting.

Dizziness

Experiencing dizziness is a symptom of migraines and can get worse with frequent head movements.

This type of vestibular disturbance can make driving difficult. According to a 2020 research review, many people with vestibular disorders say their symptoms limit their ability to drive.

Visual disturbances

If a migraine episode occurs with aura, you might experience There is a visual disturbance.s, like:

  • The lights are flashing.
  • Seeing stars or spots.
  • A partial loss of vision.

These can affect your ability to see.

Brain fog

Migraine episodes often involve a number of cognitive impairments, like:

  • memory loss
  • Slow or confused speech
  • Difficult concentrating

This There is brain fog. can make it hard to navigate safely from one place to another while behind the wheel.

Sensitivity to light and sound

The cabin of a car has increased sensitivity to light and sound. It can be hard to keep your eyes open and focused on your environment when you are on the road.

Drowsiness

Sleepiness and traffic collisions go hand in hand. Since migraine can cause extreme fatigue. and drowsiness, it may be physically impossible to stay alert and awake enough while driving to keep yourself and others safe.

Weakness

This is less common, but there is a type of migraine that causes an aura involving weakness on one side of the body: hemiplegic migraine. Its symptoms often feel similar to a stroke.

“If you can’t control your movements at any point in a migraine episode, you can’t drive a vehicle.”

It is legal to drive during a migraine episode in all 50 states.

“Unlike other neurological conditions, a migraine diagnosis doesn’t come with any extra steps or limitations.”

  • Automatic restrictions.
  • Physician reporting requirements
  • “A doctor exemption is needed for a physical exam to be needed for a driver’s license.”

“State laws vary about which medications and medical conditions require licensing restrictions, and just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s always safe.”

If you have questions, you should check with the DMV. You can ask your doctor if they have concerns about your ability to drive while taking your medication.

There are ways to reduce the risks of a migraine episode while you are driving.

You can.

  • Try to wait out the worst of your symptoms by closing your eyes and resting.
  • Call for a ride from a friend or family member if you want to park your car somewhere safe.
  • Drive slowly. You can turn on your hazard lights or drive in the far right lane.
  • Pull over and take any medication you have on hand, or pull over at a pharmacy for over-the-counter pain relievers. Check whether any of these drugs impair driving. If you can, ask a pharmacist.
  • Regulate your sensory input while you drive. Turn on the air conditioning, turn off the radio, put on sunglasses, or turn down the sun visors.
  • Stop for breaks frequently. Give yourself time to rest.

If you know that an episode is possible before or during driving, you should have a plan for what you can do to manage your symptoms or you should not drive.

If you need a ride, keep your medications in the car, know where you can pull over safely, and have a few people in mind.

Some people have a migraine when they drive. You might have felt fine when you left the house, but now that you are driving on the highway, you are struggling.

If this sounds like you, the best strategy for avoiding migraine episodes while driving is to identify your migraine triggers.

If any of the sensory inputs are more likely to cause an episode, you should try to figure out how to get rid of them.

  • If bright light is a trigger, consider using window films that reduce glare and wearing sunglasses designed to block a maximum amount of light. There are even some eyeglasses and sunglasses marketed toward people with migraine. (Research is lacking on whether these clinically work, but there are anecdotal reports they can help.)
  • If smells are a trigger, keeping aromatherapy tools inside your car, like essential oil diffusers, can help offset some of the smells coming from outside.
  • If sound is a problem, there are ways to soundproof your car with foam mats or panels, weather seals, and other methods. You could listen to soothing sounds on your car stereo system.

If you know you are more susceptible to having a migraine before driving, you may want to consider strategies for preventing it.

If you’re an infrequent driver or expect the driving or weather conditions on a particular day to be a migraine trigger, you might be able to avoid an episode by taking preventive medications before getting in the car. Just be sure they are not drugs that cause drowsiness.

Before taking preventive medications, talk to a doctor. There are restrictions on how much can be taken before driving.

If you have a condition like migraines, it is time to talk with a doctor.

“It is one thing to be affected by a migraine. If you are finding that your ability to drive on a recurring basis is disrupted by migraines, don’t ignore it.”

If you’re already receiving treatment for migraine but your inability to drive is a new symptom, also speak with a doctor. You could be moving from episodic migraine to chronic migraine, which requires a different treatment approach.

When you have a migraine episode, it is not a good idea to drive without restrictions.

The physical symptoms and cognitive side effects of a migraine can make driving hazardous to both you and others.

If you can, avoid driving during a migraine episode. If you need to get from one place to another, have a plan for what to do.