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Should You Drive with Migraine?

Ever been driving home and suddenly parts of your vision start to disappear? You realize it’s an aura and you probably have just a few minutes before a full-blown migraine sets in. Maybe you pull over. Or maybe you keep driving so you can get home before the pain hits.

But should you really be on the road with a migraine?

The Problem

The pain of a migraine can leave migraineurs completely impaired and unable to sit up, much less drive. For migraineurs who experience visual aura, the addition of visual disturbances or restrictions can further inhibit the ability to drive. If you’re on preventive or abortive medication for migraine, the drug could impair you and may even contain a warning about driving or operating heavy machinery.1

And even if you’re not having a migraine yet, headlights and loud noises such as honking could trigger a migraine.

The Law

The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration states that if you are impaired (by alcohol, drugs, lack of sleep, distractions or a medical condition), you should stay off the road. 2

There are three sure ways to put yourself in the line of the law:

  1.  If you drive while impaired and are not abiding by driving laws (or worse, cause an accident), you could be pulled over, fined, arrested, etc.
  2.  If you self-report to the Motor Vehicle Commission that you are sometimes impaired when you have a migraine, your license could be suspended or reviewed. 1 (Of course, reporting these issues could keep you safe.)
  3.  If you drive while under the influence of a drug that comes with a warning about driving, you could be charged with DUI or DWI. 1,3

The Decision

The truth is, you probably won’t want to drive when you’re in the throes of a migraine. You probably want to pull your hood over your eyes and sleep in the passenger seat.

But if you don’t feel so impaired that you need to pull over, remember that driving with migraine (or under the influence of migraine medications) could put you in danger. You don’t want to lose your license, and you certainly don’t want to be the cause of a crash. If there’s any question at all of your ability to drive, pull over, let someone else drive, take public transportation or stay at home until the attack has passed.



1. Health Central.

2. National Library of Medicine.

3. National Headache Foundation.

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