Tips for Taking Migraine and Headache Drugs

Tips for Taking Migraine and Headache Medications

If you get migraines or other types of headaches, you'll probably need to use medicine to get relief at some point. Three different types can help:

Each type of medication works best when you take it along with other lifestyle changes, such as diet, exercise, and relaxation therapy.

You and your doctor should work together to decide the best treatment plan for you. Make sure to talk about your treatment goals with your doctor and about what you expect from your medications, so you can know if your plan is working.

Here are some general tips and guidelines for taking your headache medicine:

  • Before your doctor prescribes any medicine, tell her if you have any allergies. Also tell her about all other medications you take, including over-the-counter and prescription drugs, vitamins, and herbal products. Don’t start taking anything new before you talk to your doctor about it.
  • Know which migraine and headache drugs you take and how they work. Know the generic and brand names and dosages. Always keep a list of your medications with you.
  • Know what side effects to expect from your medications. Call your doctor if you feel anything unusual or troubling.
  • Take your medications exactly as prescribed, at the same time(s) every day. Don't stop taking or change them unless you first talk with your doctor. Even if you feel good, you should keep taking them. Your condition may get worse if you suddenly stop.
  • Have a routine for taking your migraine and headache medications. A pillbox marked with the days of the week may make it easier for you to remember.
  • Keep a medicine calendar and note every time you take a dose. Your prescription label tells you how much to take, but your doctor may change your dose from time to time, depending on how well your treatment is working. You can note any changes on your medicine calendar.
  • Take your time. Double-check the name and dosage of all your medications before you take them.
  • Know your pharmacy phone number, prescription number, medication name, and dose so you can easily call for refills. Try to fill all your prescriptions at the same pharmacy, so the pharmacist can watch for medicines that you shouldn’t take together.
  • Don’t wait until you’re completely out of medication before you refill your prescriptions -- call the pharmacy or doctor's office at least 48 hours before you’ll run out. Let your doctor know if you have trouble getting to the pharmacy, have financial concerns, or other problems that make it hard for you to get your medications. A social worker may be able to help you.
  • If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember. But if it’s almost time for your next dose, skip the one you missed and go back to your regular dosing schedule. Do not take two doses to make up for it.
  • Don’t take less of your medicine to save money. You must take the full amount to get the full benefits. Talk with your doctor about how you can lower the costs of your medications.
  • Don’t stop taking your medication unless your doctor tells you to. Tell her if you have concerns about how it’s working.
  • Read the label for tips on the right way to store your medicine.
  • Check liquid medications often. If they've changed color or formed crystals, throw them away and get new ones.
  • When you travel, keep your medications with you so you can take them as scheduled. On longer trips, take an extra week's supply of medications and copies of your prescriptions in case you need to get a refill.
  • The way your body responds to migraine and headache medications may change over time, so your doctor may need to adjust what you take. Tell her if you notice a difference in how well your treatment plan is working.
  • Keep track of drugs you’ve already tried that didn’t work, so your doctor doesn't prescribe them again. It's important to note why you stopped a medication, such as bad side effects.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on January 21, 2017



FDA: “6 Tips to Avoid Medication Mistakes.”

The Migraine Trust: “Medication.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Headache Medications.”

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