Just like every person is different, every migraine is different. Severe migraine symptoms and side effects vary not only from person to person, but also from headache to headache.
Before your severe migraine attack comes on in full force, you’ll likely have multiple warning signs or symptoms. Some common symptoms include:
- pulsing pain around the eye, temples, face, sinuses, jaw, or neck
- nausea or vomiting
- sensitivity to light or sound
- scalp tenderness or pressure
- dizziness or unsteadiness
Try one, or a few, of the following remedies when symptoms begin:
- Take your migraine medication, if you have one, immediately.
- Lay down in a quiet, dark room, if possible. Shield your eyes from direct light.
- Reduce noise and remove strong smells, like scented candles or air fresheners.
- Take a nap.
- Drink plenty of fluids. If you’re experiencing nausea, try small sips of flat, clear soda.
- Apply hot or cold compresses such as an ice pack, a hot water bottle, or a cool damp towel to the painful area. Hot or cold showers and soaking your hands and feet in hot or cold water can help too.
- Rub or apply pressure to the spot where you feel pain.
Certain medicines taken at the onset of symptoms can help lessen migraine pain and side effects like nausea and vomiting. Migraine-specific drugs called triptans or ergotamines help to constrict blood vessels in and around the brain and lessen headache pain. These should be taken as soon as migraine symptoms start. These medications are available by a prescription from your doctor.
Over-the-counter analgesics or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen, may also help to lessen migraine pain.
Antiemetics or anti-nausea medications may be effective at reducing nausea or vomiting. Certain over-the-counter antihistamines, including dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) and meclizine hydrochloride (Dramamine Less Drowsy), may be used to treat nausea associated with vertigo or dizziness.
Migraines are often preceded by early symptoms, called prodromal symptoms. These may occur anywhere from six to 24 hours before an attack. Knowing your early warning signs and taking immediate action may help stop a migraine attack or lessen its severity.
Early warning signs may include:
- mood changes, including increased irritability or increased euphoria
- increased thirst
- fluid retention
- food cravings or loss of appetite
- sensitivity to light or sound
- neck stiffness
Call your doctor if your migraine is accompanied by a fever, or if you have speech, vision, or movement problems. Also seek medical attention if your migraine becomes extremely severe and your medications aren’t effective.
Recording migraine episodes in a headache diary can provide you with important information about potential migraine triggers. It can also help you and your doctor figure out the best treatment plan for you.
Record in your diary the date and time of each episode, how severe the headache and side effects were, any preceding symptoms, any possible triggers, and therapies or treatments that helped to lessen your symptoms or end the attack.
No matter what your triggers are, exercising regularly, avoiding fatigue, and de-stressing may prevent future migraines.
These simple habits may also help:
- Get a good night’s sleep.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
- Eat healthy foods.
- Don’t skip meals.
- Limit alcohol or caffeine intake.
- Exercise daily.
- Learn ways to cope with or reduce stress, including meditation or relaxation techniques.
Work with your doctor to formulate a migraine management plan. Keeping a list of treatment methods that have worked for you in the past may also help prevent future attacks.