How to Stop Migraine Headaches

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Migraine headaches are typically cured by lifestyle changes, as opposed to use of over-the-counter medications. Find out how caffeine and alcohol can be causes of migraine headaches with help from a doctor and pediatrician in this free video on migraine headache treatments.

Part of the Video Series: Headache Treatments
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Dr. David Hill, and today we're going to talk about how to stop migraine headaches. Now, migraine headaches are incredibly annoying and incredibly common. As we come to understand more about migraines, we're trying to realize that they also happen in children, surprisingly frequently. Migraine researchers now think an infant as young as six months of age can suffer from migraines, based on newer imaging studies that let us see some of the changes that occur in the brain with migraines. So, we know that they're very common. Many people who think they have sinus headaches really have migraine headaches. So, if you or someone you know gets frequent headaches that are severe, chances are good that's not just sinuses. That's probably migraines. So, once you think you have migraines, well, what can you do about it? Unfortunately, there are not a whole lot of over-the-counter remedies. Although, there are some lifestyle changes. If you have migraine headaches and you drink a lot of caffeine, for example, it's time to kill the caffeine. Time to take it out of your diet altogether, at least for awhile, 'til the headache subside. So remember, things that have caffeine, obviously, are coffee and tea, but also soft drinks like Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, RC, Mountain Dew. Look on your beverage container and see how much caffeine is in there. Also, remember that dark chocolate can be a source of caffeine, especially. So, you want to eliminate caffeine from your diet. Likewise, if you're a smoker, the migraine headache may be telling you, it's finally time to really quit. That's another thing that may help. If you drink much in the way of alcohol, taking alcohol out of your diet is also a great way to stop the migraines, or at least slow them down, especially if you enjoy red wine. Some people identify other food triggers for their migraine headaches. They may notice that sausage or aged cheese, or other particularly flavorful foods, like dark chocolates, cause their migraines. That's because these foods contain a group of chemicals called tyrosamines. So, ideally, if that happens to be one of your triggers, you take that out. Other ways to stop migraines are medical. There's a whole group of drugs that are anti-migraine drugs; probably the famous and the oldest is Sumatriptan, which is known as Imitrex. But, there are a bunch of "triptans" now that are available. You can squirt them up your nose; you can take them as an injection; you can take them by mouth. There's several different ways to use this medicine. The key with the triptan is to get it in as soon as the headache pain starts. The sooner you treat it, the more likely it is to go away. Now, in patients who have frequent migraines, maybe one or two a week, or whom the triptans are not working, there are also preventive daily medications that you can take. There are several different kinds that are use, and at that point, you're probably going to be under a doctor's care. So, you can talk to your doctor about what sort of preventive migraine medicine may work best for you. Finally, over-the-counter, you can always get Ibuprofen, often with caffeine, that's what Excedrin is; it's actually a blend of pain relievers with caffeine. But remember, these drugs can be overused. Whatever you're taking for your migraine, unless it's a daily, preventive medicine, be sure you don't take it more than couple of times a week. If you get to three times a week or more, you're on the risk of what's called chronic daily headaches or rebound headaches, and those can be very difficult and very painful to get rid of. The only way to get rid of them is to stop taking the medicine you're using for the pain. So, remember, your headaches, if they're severe or recurrent, probably are migraines. There are a couple of things you can do, especially altering your diet and other habits, caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol to get rid of them. There are over-the-counter remedies, like Excedrin or other pain relievers, containing caffeine. Don't overdo them. And most importantly, go ahead and see your doctor and see what he can do or she can do to help relieve these migraines you may be having. Talking about relieving the pain of a migraine headache, I'm Dr. David Hill.

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