Migraines: Take Steps to Avoid the ER

The last place you want to be when you are suffering from a migraine is in a noisy, bright hospital emergency room (ER). Yet every 10 seconds, someone goes to the ER with a headache or migraine.

Here’s how you can help keep your migraines from driving you to the ER.

  • Know and avoid your triggers. If you don’t know what triggers your migraines, keep a headache diary to help you learn. Common triggers include stress, alcohol, aged cheeses, caffeine (or the lack of it), chocolate, hormonal changes, skipping meals, bright lights (including computer or TV screens), glare, and changes in sleeping patterns.

  • Be prepared. Carry your migraine relief medicine with you at all times and take it as soon as you feel the symptoms of a migraine begin. After taking the medicine, resting in a dark room may also help reduce your symptoms. Many acute rescue medicines can be given if the first dose doesn't work. An overlooked rescue medicine that can be self-administered is a migraine rescue injection. For some people, injections work better than medicines taken by mouth. And if it keeps you out of the ER, a self-injection is worth it. In the ER, you are likely to get medicines intravenously (IV) anyway.

  • Take preventive medicine as prescribed. These medicines work best to prevent migraines and should be taken every day. If you have severe and frequent migraines, you may benefit from a different medicine combined with other preventive measures.

  • Start exercising slowly. If you don’t exercise regularly, start with just 5 or 10 minutes of walking every day. Get your healthcare provider’s approval before you start.

  • Slowly add more time, speed, and distance to your exercise program. Try adding a few minutes to your walks each week. Walk briskly to help your heart beat faster. But be sure you can talk while walking. Aim to walk for 30 minutes or more every day.

Online Medical Reviewer: Joseph Campellone MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Melinda Murray Ratini DO
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2023
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