What to Do During a Migraine Attack


Migraines can be a lifelong debilitating companion with no permanent cure. Like allergies, they can only be prevented or mitigated. But what if you experience a sudden attack? The process of stopping a migraine when it starts is called abortive treatment. There is no universal formula for an abortive treatment because each migraine attack is unique. There is however a general guide for the abortive stage. Here are the things you should remember.

  • Determine the stage or phase. A migraine attack has stages. Knowing this will help you decide what to do. Take a painkiller at the earliest possible sign. The premonitory stage can manifest in different symptoms for different people. Some signs like aura are not present in others.


  • Find a dark room. When the attack starts, look for a place where you can lie down and turn off the lights, preferably with less distraction and noise. Migraine attacks increase your sensitivity to light and noise. Find a place where you can comfortably sit or lie down.


  • Take off your eyeglasses and earrings. Remove items on your head such as your eyeglasses, earrings, and hair accessories. Sometimes these things can add to the pain. Some people have a sensitive scalp during an attack that even contact with the hair can cause pain.


  • Try to relax and sleep. There are times when you don’t get enough sleep especially when you are working or studying. Do not panic during an attack. If it happens, try to sleep if you can. Rest can help you ride out the pain.


  • Use ice packs or cold compress. Apply a cold compress on your head and neck. This will reduce some of the pain. Hot compress can relax muscles too. Pick the one that works best for you.

  • Take painkillers. Take painkillers at the first signs of an attack. The most common are aspirin, ibuprofen and paracetamol. If taken too late however, the medicine does not usually work well. Triptans are recommended if the over the counter painkillers don’t work. If you can’t swallow or you’re vomiting, suppositories may be an alternative.


  • Relieve other problems. Triptans only target headaches. If other symptoms are present, you might want to take other medications. But these should only be taken if you were advised beforehand by your doctor during one of your previous check-ups.


  • Drink caffeine, but not too much. Caffeine can relieve some of the pain but make sure not to drink too much as this can cause headaches later on.


  • Eat if possible. Some attacks are triggered by having irregular meals. If it’s not too painful to chew food during an attack, try to eat something. Some people vomit during an attack. Don’t force yourself to take food or medicine if you can’t hold it down.


  • Seek medical attention. If the pain has been going on for a long time or if the intensity of the pain is different from the usual, it’s best to call emergency. The migraine attack may be a sign of another illness or it might not be a migraine attack at all.

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