When To See A Doctor For A Prescription Medication
Its possible that OTC medications dont effectively alleviate your migraine symptoms. If this is the case, make an appointment to see a doctor to discuss other treatment options.
There are several types of prescription medications that can help to ease acute migraine symptoms. Some examples include:
- triptans, such as rizatriptan , sumatriptan , and zolmitriptan
- ergot derivatives like dihydroergotamine and ergotamine tartrate
- newer medications, such as lasmiditan and ubrogepant
- antiemetics, which are used to treat nausea and include medications like metoclopramide and chlorpromazine
Another good reason to see a doctor for migraine is that there are prescription medications available that can help to prevent symptoms. These can include:
- certain kinds of blood pressure drugs, such as beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers
- antiseizure medications like valproate and topiramate
Medications To Relieve Headache Symptoms
How do symptomatic relief medications work?
These medicines help you find relief from the symptoms that may come with headaches, such as pain, nausea and vomiting. Some of these medicines are available over the counter. Others require a prescription.
Try to avoid:
- Foods, beverages and medications containing caffeine when taking these medications.
- Medications containing barbiturates or narcotics , if possible.
- Medications with aspirin, for young children.
Can a child take medications to relieve headache symptoms?
What OTC medications can relieve headache symptoms?
These medications provide relief from headache symptoms, without a prescription:
Generic name: Aspirin
- Brand name: Bayer®, Bufferin®, Ecotrin®.
- Symptoms relieved: Fever and pain.
- Precautions and possible side effects: Heartburn, gastrointestinal bleeding, bronchospasm or constriction that causes narrowing of the airways, anaphylaxis and peptic ulcer. Dont give aspirin to children under 14 years old. It can cause a rare but serious disease called Reyes syndrome.
Generic name: Acetaminophen, paracetamol
- Brand name: Tylenol®.
- Symptoms relieved: Fever and pain.
- Precautions and possible side effects: Changes in blood counts and liver function, but side effects are rare if medication is taken as directed.
Generic name: Ibuprofen
Which Migraine Medications Are Available Over The Counter
First, it helps to know what types of migraine medications are available over the counter and which ones youll need a prescription for.
OTC migraine medications include:
Ergot alkaloids, like ergotamine tartrate
Serotonin 1F receptor agonists like Reyvow
CGRP antagonists like Ubrelvy
The medications listed above are used to treat migraines while youre having one. There are other prescription medications that you can take to help prevent migraines from occurring.
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Opioids Have Utility In Migraine Treatment But They Are Often Overprescribed Which May Be Hurting Patients Stephen Silberstein Md Fahs Says A Lack Of Physician Education Is To Blame
For certain groups of patients with migraine, like the elderly and pregnant women who often avoid triptans or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , opioid medications could potentially be used for occasional pain management. But in todays treatment landscape where migraine-specific medications that target the source of a patients symptoms are effective and available, opioids continue to be prescribed at unnecessarily high rates, a practice that can have devastating effects on individuals, according to Stephen Silberstein, MD, FAAN, FACP, FAHS, director of the Headache Center at Jefferson University Hospital.
Other Types Of Headaches
Headaches also can be caused by other conditions or situations. These are often short-lived and easily treated. For example:
Sinus headaches. A sinus infection can cause pain over the forehead, around the nose and eyes, over the cheeks, or in the upper teeth. When the infection resolves, the pain disappears.
Brain freezes. Some people develop a sharp, sudden headache when they eat or drink something cold. The pain usually goes away within a few minutes. If this is a common problem, try to warm the cold food at the front of your mouth before swallowing.
Exercise headaches. Strenuous exercise can sometimes trigger a headache. Make sure you are well hydrated before and after exercise. Taking an OTC anti-inflammatory beforehand also may help.
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When Should I Call My Healthcare Provider About A Headache
If you have these symptoms, see your healthcare provider or go to the emergency room:
- Feeling that youre having the worst headache ever.
- Headache that comes with vision loss, vomiting or loss of consciousness.
- Headache pain lasting more than 72 hours, with less than four pain-free hours in a row while awake.
- Feeling that something is off or not right.
Limit The Use Of All Pain Medicines
- Do not use prescription pain medicine for headaches for more than nine days in a month.
- Do not use non-prescription pain medicine for more than 14 days in a month.
This report is for you to use when talking with your healthcare provider. It is not a substitute for medical advice and treatment. Use of this report is at your own risk.
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Stop That Splitting Headache
30 million Americans suffer from migraines each year
Half of those can’t do household chores or attend social functions because of pain
Migraines are a neurological disorder with triggers ranging from stress to certain foods
About once a month, usually around my period, I start feeling sort of off. My neck gets tight and achy, and I cant think as clearly as usual, like my mental gears are gummed up.
That slow-brain feeling, Ive learned over the years, is not a good sign. It means Im about to get a migraine. Its my cue to be careful to steer clear of red wine and sugar, two sure triggers when Im in that sensitive state, and to get enough rest since lack of sleep can tip me over the edge, too.
Even so, if anything in my routine is out of whack if I dont eat often enough, or if I become overly stressed I can count on one or two days of misery. Head-pounding, nauseated, verge-of-tears misery.
Sound bad? Compared to many of the 30 million migraine sufferers in the U.S., my experience is fairly mild. Several years ago, the massive American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention Study found that half of those who struggle with migraines cant do household chores and a third forgo family or social activities.
Theyre more common than we used to think, Charles says. Nearly 48% of all women will have a migraine at some point in their lives.
Pre-headache: Prevent it
What Is A Cluster Headache
A cluster headache is considered the most severe type of headache. Cluster headaches occur in “cluster periods” ranging from every other day to 8 times a day, and can last anywhere from 15 minutes to three hours. Pain associated with a cluster headache feels like a stabbing pain behind or around the eye, usually on one side. Other symptoms of a cluster headache include nasal congestion, tearing, a running nose, facial and forehead swelling, constriction of pupils and eyelid swelling. Cluster headaches are most common in those who smoke or drink. If you think you’re experiencing cluster headaches talk to your doctor, because this type of headache requires medical oversight.
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When Tylenol Or Advil Fails
If you don’t get headache relief from a dose of Tylenol or an NSAID, you might want to consider a two-tablet dose of Excedrin Extra Strength. This medication contains a combination of drugs, including:
For some people, a combination of pain relievers and caffeine may work better for treating tension-type headaches than a single pain reliever. That said, combined products may cause more side effects, such as stomach upset or dizziness, although these are generally mild and short-lived.
However, remember that Excedrin contains both aspirin and acetaminophen. So, be sure to stay within recommended daily limits, especially if you combine it with other types of medication.
What Can Happen If You Take Painkillers Too Often
Painkillers or triptans can themselves cause headaches if used too often. These headaches are known as medication overuse headaches or rebound headaches. Medication overuse headaches cause a dull pain that affects the entire head. Pain from a migraine is more of a throbbing pain, and is accompanied by other symptoms. Medication overuse headaches are chronic, occurring on more than 15 days per month for three months. People with this kind of headache may still have migraine attacks.
If you have medication overuse headaches, it makes sense to stop taking the medication for a while, even if the headache gets worse at first and there are other withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness, trouble sleeping or nausea.
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Preventing Sinus Headaches And Pain
Sinus headaches and pain can occur at any point of the year, but sticking to a few simple strategies can help minimize your exposure to seasonal fluctuations and lower your risk of getting a sinus headache.
THINGS TO TRY INDOORS
- Improve your air quality with an air filtration system, HEPA filters and a dehumidifier to help prevent mold growth.
- Keep things tidy by vacuuming frequently, washing linens in hot water and drying them immediately.
- Be conscientious when it comes to your fluffy friends. Keep pets outdoors and delegate when you can, letting a loved one tend to litter and cages.
THINGS TO TRY OUTDOORS
- Plan ahead and check weather forecasts and pollen counts before you head out. On hot, dry, windy days it may be best to stay in.
- Avoid going out in the morning, as pollen counts tend to be the highest early in the day.
- Keep allergens outdoors where they belong. Shower and change if youve been outdoors for an extended period of time to wash pollen that may have collected on your hair or skin.
Some Drugs Should Rarely Be Used
Migraine attacks can last for hoursor even days. They can cause intense pain, nausea, and vomiting. They can make you sensitive to light or noise, and they can affect your life and work.
To treat migraines, you may get a prescription for an opioid or a barbiturate called butalbital. These are pain medicines. But you should think twice about using these drugs. Heres why:
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Which Medications Are Suitable For Children And Teenagers
Medications sometimes have different effects in children and teenagers than they do in adults. They need other doses, and some of the side effects are also different. The following medications have been approved in Europe for the treatment of migraines in children and teenagers:
- acetaminophen : for children ages 12 and up, also in combination with metoclopramide
- sumatriptan: as a nasal spray for children ages 12 and up
It’s not clear whether acetaminophen can relieve migraine symptoms in children and teenagers. Several studies show that ibuprofen can help relieve migraine attacks. There were no serious side effects in the studies involving children with migraines. Mild side effects like stomach ache were rare.
The sumatriptan nasal spray also helped relieve migraine attacks in children and teenagers. Mild side effects were more common though, such as an unpleasant taste or nausea.
Children and teenagers can also be prescribed medication that hasn’t been approved for their age group. This is known as “off-label use.” If your doctor prescribes a medication off-label, then he or she needs to explain why and tell you about the associated risks.
Treating Migraine Headaches: Some Drugs Should Rarely Be Used
Migraine attacks can last for hoursor even days. They can cause intense pain, nausea and vomiting. They can make you sensitive to light or noise and they can affect your life and work.
To treat migraines, you may be given a prescription for an opioid or a barbiturate called butalbital. These are pain medicines. But you should think twice about using these drugs for migraine. Heres why:
These drugs can make headaches worse.
Using too much pain medicine can lead to a condition called medication overuse headache . Two kinds of pain medicine are more likely to cause MOH:
- Drugs containing opioidssuch as codeine , morphine , Hycodan or oxycodone .
- Drugs containing butalbital .
They are not as effective as other migraine drugs.
There are other drugs that can reduce the number of migraines you have and how severe they arebetter than opioids and butalbital. Even in the emergency roomwhere people with severe migraines often ask for opioidsbetter drugs are available, including triptans.
They have risks.
Opioids and butalbital can cause serious withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking them suddenly. People who use high doses for a long time may need to be in the hospital in order to stop using them.
Opioids, even at low doses, can make you feel sleepy or dizzy. Other side effects include constipation and nausea. Using them for a long time can lower your sex drive and cause depression and sleep problems.
Which drugs are good for migraines?
Limit the use of all pain medicines.
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Abortive Therapy For Headaches
How does abortive therapy work?
You take abortive therapy medications early during a headache. Theyre usually used for migraine headaches. These drugs stop the process causing headache pain. They help reduce headache symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound.
For best results, take these medicines when you first notice the migraine. If you get a migraine aura , you may need to avoid some of these medications. Talk to your healthcare provider to figure out which medications are right for you.
Can IV drugs help stop a migraine?
Some headaches especially migraines last for more than 24 hours and dont respond to other abortive medications. In these situations, your healthcare provider may recommend you get medication at an infusion site.
This site is usually a set of rooms at a hospital or clinic where people receive IV drugs. A nurse monitors the people receiving infusions. Generally, IV drugs can end the migraine attack, even when other abortive medicines were unsuccessful. You may be at the infusion site for a few hours or a full day, depending on your symptoms.
Can children take abortive therapies?
The FDA has approved some abortive therapies for teenagers but none for younger children. Talk to your childs healthcare provider to figure out the best way to treat headaches.
What abortive therapy headache medicines are available?
Medications that can stop migraine headaches include:
Generic name: Ergot, dihydroergotamine, mesylate
Strongest Migraine Medication Over
When discussing strength, we often refer to how much of a medication is given per dose.
Many of these OTC migraine medications are given in high doses. For example, the recommended dosages for aspirin and acetaminophen are typically around 1,000 mg.
However, when thinking about strength, you may also be considering how strongly these medications act against your migraine symptoms.
In this case, an argument can be made for the aspirin, acetaminophen, and caffeine combination. Older research has found that the combination of these three ingredients has a greater effectiveness than each individual ingredient alone.
Overall, its important to remember that the medication that most effectively alleviates acute migraine symptoms can vary by person. Because of this, focus on finding the treatment that best addresses your symptoms.
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Opioids Role In Migraine Treatment
The general criterion on opioid use for migraine is as a last resort. Im not saying opioids are always wrong and always evil, Silberstein said, But in patients that take opioid for the treatment of migraine, they frequently wind up with more frequent and more severe headaches, and the worst part is when you stop them, their headaches dont always get better.
Being proactive in your treatment regime can play a role in successful pain relief. Silberstein recommends patients develop an emergency department plan with their doctors so they are not given opioids unnecessarily or misjudged as drug-seeking and denied necessary care. A written note advising acute treatments like triptans or NSAIDs as the first line of defense can help bridge the communication gap between headache specialists and emergency department personnel.
Good care gives good results, Silberstein said. For many migraine patients, opiates are a shortcut that results in bad care.
How Are Headaches Treated
There isnât a one-size-fits-all approach. Your doctor will likely suggest one or more of the following:
Immediate treatment: Some drugs can put a quick end to a headache or migraine. Your doctor might have you inhale oxygen through a mask to relieve cluster headaches. Doctors might refer to this type of treatment as abortive therapy. Ibuprofen or naproxen may relieve migraines or tension headaches. But, for more severe migraines, prescription triptans are often recommended.
Preventive treatment: Prescription drugs can stop pain before it starts. It can make what you do feel less severe.
Nondrug treatments: Many natural therapies can be useful, too. Your headache specialist may suggest:
- Limit alcohol.
- Manage other health problems. Conditions like anxiety or high blood pressure can trigger headaches if you donât keep them under control.
- Watch your use of medicines. Taking OTC pain relievers too often, or at a higher dose than advised, could cause more problems. Once the drug wears off, withdrawal symptoms start. This leads to more head pain and the need for more medicine. Doctors call this a rebound headache.
- Stick to a sleep schedule. Too little or too much rest can trigger headaches.
- Get to a healthy weight. A high body mass index can lead to more migraines.
- Track your headaches. Write down when you get one and what you were doing right before. Make sure to include what, if anything, helped ease your pain.
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How To Relieve Migraine Pain
Unlike tension headaches, migraine pain has the power to stop you in your tracks. While your doctor can help, you can also try to get some relief on your own and control your migraine before it controls you.
Acetaminophen :An effective pain reliever, acetaminophen belongs to a class of drugs that is known to reduce pain and relieve fevers.1 One key benefit of acetaminophen is that it doesnt irritate the stomach.
Caffeine:TYLENOL® Ultra Relief contains the trusted pain relief of TYLENOL® combined with caffeine to provide superior relief. Clinical studies have proven that an acetaminophen and caffeine combination relieves headache pain more effectively than acetaminophen alone.
Natural remedies to relieve migraines:As an alternative solution to relieving your migraine pain, you can also try natural remedies. There are a number of herbal medicines that might be able to offer the relief you want.
For example, feverfew is a popular herbal remedy that is used to prevent migraines. However, it will not relieve migraines once they have begun.2
Other tips and practices:Lastly, there are several home-remedy treatments that can help alleviate your pain. Here are some ways you can find relief:
Lie down in a dark room. Migraines can worsen or be triggered with bright light and high volumes of noise.3 At the first sign of a migraine, relax in a dark and quiet place – and if possible, meditate, take a nap or at the very least, rest your eyes.