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Migraine Headache


A migraine is a severe headache. The pain can be so severe that it interferes with your daily activities. A migraine can last a few hours up to several days. The exact cause of migraines is not known.


Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have a headache that seems different or much worse than your usual migraine headache.
  • You have a severe headache with a fever or a stiff neck.
  • You have new problems with speech, vision, balance, or movement.
  • You feel like you are going to faint, you become confused, or you have a seizure.

Contact your healthcare provider or neurologist if:

  • Your migraines interfere with your daily activities.
  • Your medicines or treatments stop working.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


You may need any of the following. Take medicine as soon as you feel a migraine begin.

  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine.
  • Migraine medicines are used to help prevent a migraine or stop it once it starts.
  • Antinausea medicine may be given to calm your stomach and to help prevent vomiting. This medicine can also help relieve pain.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Rest in a dark, quiet room. This will help decrease your pain. Sleep may also help relieve the pain.
  • Apply ice to decrease pain. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover the ice pack with a towel and place it on your head. Apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes every hour.
  • Apply heat to decrease pain and muscle spasms. Use a small towel dampened with warm water or a heating pad, or sit in a warm bath. Apply heat on the area for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours. You may alternate heat and ice.
  • Keep a migraine record. Write down when your migraines start and stop. Include your symptoms and what you were doing when a migraine began. Record what you ate or drank for 24 hours before the migraine started. Keep track of what you did to treat your migraine and if it worked. Bring the migraine record with you to visits with your healthcare provider.

Follow up with your healthcare provider or neurologist as directed:

Bring your migraine record with you. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Prevent another migraine:

  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can trigger a migraine or make it worse. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol can trigger a migraine. It can also keep medicines used to treat your migraines from working.
  • Get regular exercise. Exercise may help prevent migraines. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for you. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days.
  • Manage stress. Stress may trigger a migraine. Learn new ways to relax, such as deep breathing.
  • Create a sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same times each day. Do not watch television before bed.
  • Eat regular meals. Include healthy foods such as include fruit, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meat, and fish. Do not have food or drinks that trigger your migraines.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Migraine Headache (Aftercare Instructions)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference