DR ELLIE CANNON: Who will end my son’s 24-year migraine misery?  


My 33-year-old son has suffered migraines since he was nine. Attacks usually last three to four hours and symptoms include vomiting with extreme headache and light sensitivity, followed by about 20 hours of sleep. 

Over the years we’ve seen GPs and he’s been advised to take paracetamol, which he can’t even keep down. One attack lasted 48 hours, so we called an ambulance. 

They tried to convince us it was food poisoning. Is there a specialist we could see? I’d be willing to pay.

The mother of a 33-year-old man has written to Dr Ellie to seek help over his migraines which have blighted his life for more than 20 years (picture posed by model) 

Migraines affect one in seven people – and symptoms, which include but aren’t limited to headaches, can be debilitating. As this letter shows, it’s often poorly treated.

   

More from Dr Ellie Cannon for The Mail on Sunday…

For an acute migraine attack, high-dose ibuprofen or aspirin can be used. Soluble aspirin – 900mg – is particularly useful dissolved in a sugary drink and should be taken at the onset of symptoms. These medications can be used alongside a drug for vomiting – there are a few to try and they can come as a tablet that dissolves in the mouth, known as a buccal preparation.

Triptans are migraine medications that can be used for attacks either with or without the normal pain relief. Sumatriptan is the most common and something a GP can prescribe at one of two doses. Other triptans are available if that one doesn’t help and they can be a tablet but also a nasal spray, or ‘melts’ that dissolve on the tongue, which again might be useful if vomiting is a problem.

As well as treating attacks, GPs should offer preventative treatment to reduce the severity and frequency of migraines.

This would certainly be considered if migraines are having a significant impact on quality of life and functioning. Sufferers can prevent migraines themselves by avoiding triggers such as caffeine, dehydration and lack of sleep.

Beta-blockers can be prescribed to prevent migraines and the national guidelines to treat migraine suggest both acupuncture and the vitamin riboflavin may also be of use. The Migraine Trust (migrainetrust.org) offers excellent support and advice to anyone with migraine.

Does smell-training for anosmia actually work? I lost my sense of smell after getting Covid last December, and it’s still not come back. I’ve seen these kits online, but they are quite expensive. I just wonder if it is better to wait, as I’m told it does get better on its own eventually?

Losing your sense of smell has become one of the defining symptoms of Covid, and for some it will persist for longer than three months.

It is thought that half of people who had Covid experienced a loss of sense of smell caused by the effect the virus has on the nerves.

Specialists recommend anyone with a loss of smell lasting more than two weeks should explore smell-training. It does work, slowly helping the nerves to recognise smells again.

Losing your sense of smell has become one of the defining symptoms of Covid, and for some it will persist for longer than three months

Losing your sense of smell has become one of the defining symptoms of Covid, and for some it will persist for longer than three months

It may involve sniffing at least four different smells twice daily for several months. Although expensive kits – little jars containing what are, essentially, perfumes – are being sold, there is in fact a free programme available online developed by the charity AbScent and backed by the British Rhinological Society. It’s called Nosewell and you’ll find it at abscent.org/nosewell.

They sell kits, but also advise on how to make your own from things you might already own, or that are easy to get hold of, such as lemon, floral perfumes, eucalyptus and cloves.

Even before Covid, losing one’s sense of smell was recognised by doctors as a serious condition.

There can be a significant effect on someone’s life if they can’t enjoy food and pleasant scents. More importantly, it means people can’t smell smoke, fire or gas leaks, or even taste or smell whether food is off.

Without a sense of smell, it is important to be aware of these dangers and take precautions with safety measures in the home, such as smoke detectors.

For more than five years now I have suffered with digestive problems causing extreme bloating and flatulence. When it started, I had many tests, all of which found nothing. At the moment I’m going through a bad patch where I’m very bloated. If I fold my arms, I can rest them on my stomach. What could help?

Bloating is a difficult symptom. It seems minor yet is very uncomfortable, and can be a sign of something serious.

Do you have a question for Dr Ellie?

Email DrEllie@mailonsunday.co.uk or write to Health, The Mail on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London, W8 5TT.

Dr Ellie can only answer in a general context and cannot respond to individual cases, or give personal replies. If you have a health concern, always consult your own GP.

It is important to distinguish between bloating that comes and goes to different levels, and bloating that is always there. 

In a woman, bloating that is always there without going up and down can be a sign of ovarian cancer, so always needs to be discussed with a doctor. 

Bowel cancer should also be ruled out.

Bloating that goes up and down to different levels, perhaps related to eating food, can often be a result of irritable bowel syndrome. 

Other symptoms are abdominal pain and abnormal bowel habits. 

Triggers can be high-fibre foods such as bran, brown rice, fizzy drinks and even caffeine and alcohol. 

If problems are ongoing, a referral to a dietician can be made to explore what is known as a low-FODMAP diet – FODMAPs are an umbrella term for a wide variety of foods that are seemingly healthy but in fact create a lot of gas and symptoms in the bowel. 

They include apples, nectarines, broccoli and cabbage.

Few are ‘ineligible’ for vaccine

I keep hearing people claiming they can’t have the Covid jab ‘for health reasons’.

Readers have written to me, and I’ve heard people on the radio saying they have high blood pressure or an autoimmune disease, so aren’t eligible for the jab. I’m concerned there’s been a misunderstanding here.

The only groups excluded from vaccination are people with a history of serious allergic reactions to vaccines, or to an ingredient in the Covid jab. 

Even pregnant women are now prioritised, following studies showing it is perfectly safe.

A much greater threat to your health is not being vaccinated. Those with underlying conditions are at high risk of serious disease and, ultimately, death, if they catch this dreaded virus. 

Get second jab ASAP if you’re on bowel drug 

Bowel disease patients on a certain drug need to take extra care after having their Covid jab.

Studies have shown that people taking infliximab, which is prescribed to Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis sufferers, have only a minimal response to the first vaccine dose.

Infliximab, also prescribed to those with certain types of arthritis, works by dampening the immune system which drives these diseases.

Studies have shown that people taking infliximab, which is prescribed to Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis sufferers, have only a minimal response to the first vaccine dose

Studies have shown that people taking infliximab, which is prescribed to Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis sufferers, have only a minimal response to the first vaccine dose

But the study results show that it might also, unfortunately, interfere with the immune response to the vaccine.

The research has shown that the second Covid vaccine dose does boost the immune system properly, providing good protection against Covid.

Those on infliximab who have had just one dose shouldn’t worry – but they should keep taking Covid precautions and have their second dose as a matter of priority.

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