The Math of Migraines

By Scott LaFee

August 4, 2021 6 min read

It's estimated that more than one billion people worldwide suffer from migraines, which doctors define as a headache that can cause severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on one side of the head, often accompanied by nausea, vomiting and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.

It's estimated that 157 million workdays are lost annually in the United States to debilitating migraines, which can last hours to days.

There are four stages of a migraine:

No. 1: Prodrome: Symptoms, such as mood changes, constipation, food cravings, increased urination and neck stiffness, that appear one or two days before, signaling the onset.

No. 2: Aura: Some people experience visual phenomena, such as flashes of light, sensations of pins and needles in the arms or legs or numbness in the face or body before or during a migraine. Auras are reversible symptoms of the nervous system.

No. 3: Attack: The actual migraine and its symptoms.

No. 4: Postdrome: After the attack, feelings of exhaustion and confusion can occur, though some people may report feeling elated.

Get Me That, Stat!

There's a reason the tobacco industry advertises when and where it can. It works. Consider a 1920s ad for Lucky Strike cigarettes that targeted women. It touted cigarettes as a diet aid: grab a smoke instead of dessert. The Lucky Strike brand enjoyed a 300% increase in sales in the first year of the ad campaign.

Mark Your Calendar

August is the month we should all be aware of breastfeeding, children's eye health, sun safety and, if you weren't already, the importance of immunizations (of all sorts).


16 million: The number of women and girls in U.S. who smoke tobacco.

200,000: The number of people who die each year due to smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke

One in five: The number of high school girls who now use e-cigarettes.

2021: The first year that women are as likely to die from smoking-related diseases as men.

Source: A Lifetime of Damage, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (2021)

Stories for the Waiting Room

Flu season is coming. Last year, cases of the flu and colds dropped dramatically, which was one of the few positive consequences of the pandemic. The upcoming season isn't likely to be so benign, if masking and social distancing become things of the past.

But there's another common virus less often mentioned: respiratory syncytial virus. For most people, it causes mild, coldlike symptoms, which disappear after a week or so. But it can be very serious in infants and older adults, leading to bronchiolitis and pneumonia. Approximately 60,000 children under the age of five are hospitalized with RSV.

And because viral cases were so low last season, immune systems may not be primed to fend off infections this year, especially for young children who have never been infected. Prevention measures are the same: good hand hygiene, cover coughs and avoid close contact with those who are sick. There is no vaccine yet for RSV.

Doc Talk

Transient lingual papillitis: A temporary bump on the tongue caused by a swollen taste bud.

Just so You Know

In 1953, it took 27 hours to create one PEEPS marshmallow chick. The same process today takes six minutes. It takes 2.2 seconds to eat one.

Never Say 'Diet'

The Major League Eating record for chili is 2.438 gallons in six minutes, held by Carmen Cincotti. Cincotti claimed the record at the Orlando Chili Cookoff with an explosive finish.

Best Medicine

First guy: "I wasn't feeling well so I went to the library to check out a medical book on abdominal pain. It didn't help."

Second guy: "Why not?"

First guy: "Somebody had removed the appendix."


"You shall gain, but you shall pay with sweat, blood and vomit." — Belarusian fitness instructor Pavel Tsatsouline, noted for popularizing the use of kettlebells as an exercise tool.

Medical History

This week in 1938, the first nylon-bristle toothbrush in the U.S. was described in a New York Times business report. Dr. West's Miracle-Tuft toothbrush was the first to use synthetic DuPont nylon bristles instead of natural hog bristles. It had four guarantees: "No bristle shedding, 100 per cent waterproofed, longer life, greater cleansing power." Price: 50 cents.


Q: How many hairs in the average eyebrow?

A: Approximately 250, although some never-plucked eyebrows can boast upwards of 1,000 hairs. The average lifespan of an eyebrow hair is four months, then it falls out and is replaced.

Last Words

"Quite the contrary." — Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) to his nurse who suggested his health was improving. Ibsen suffered a stroke in 1900, followed by others that eventually reduced him to a bedridden invalid.

To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: Peggy_Marco at Pixabay

Like it? Share it!

  • 0

About Scott LaFee
Read More | RSS | Subscribe