7 Must-Have Items for Your Migraine Attack Toolkit

Medically Reviewed By Deena Kuruvilla, MD

A migraine attack can come with extreme head pain, nausea, dizziness, and trouble seeing clearly. An attack may be the worst time to try to organize your space for the rest you need or stock your shelves with the medication, fluids, and foods that can help you recover. Get tips to prepare for an episode, build a support system to cover everyday tasks in case of an attack, and work with your doctor on a prevention and treatment plan. 

person drinking water

1. Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of water is important for overall health and essential if a migraine attack makes you vomit and lose fluids. Have plenty of water, naturally sweetened fruit or vegetable juices, and clear (versus creamy) soups on hand. Fruits that contain a lot of water such as apples, oranges, and watermelon can also help you stay hydrated. Try to cut out caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine — these are migraine triggers. Avoiding having them in your home may help eliminate possible cravings.

2. Learn about migraine-friendly foods

When you don’t feel well, it can be tempting to order comfort food, heat up a frozen dinner, or make a quick sandwich. Some ingredients and foods, including monosodium glutamate (MSG) and processed meats like ham and bacon, contain migraine triggers. Try to keep healthier options on hand, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Some doctors recommend eating five or six small portions of fresh food a day instead of three big meals. Ask your doctor to recommend a registered dietician or nutritionist who can help you create simple meal plans that fit your lifestyle.

3. Create a migraine recovery space

If possible, identify a room or area of your home that you can designate as a cool, quiet, and dark space to rest during a migraine attack. Have a cold cloth or ice pack within easy reach to soothe the areas of your head and face where you feel pain. Some people also find one or more of the following items soothing: black-out curtains, a weighted blanket, an eye mask, an ice hat, a meditation app, an electric fan, or a relaxation-promoting noise machine. 

4. Have migraine medication at home and on the go

If you take nonprescription medication for migraine, make sure you have it stocked and keep some in your bag or wallet in case symptoms occur, as well as sunglasses and hats. The same goes for prescription medication. Some people have prescription medications for migraine prevention and acute treatment when an attack occurs. Follow the instructions for medication exactly. If the medication doesn’t ease your pain, let your doctor know. Taking too much pain medication can actually have the opposite of the intended effect. It can cause medication overuse headache and make your pain last longer. Always consult with your doctor about making changes to your medication or trying alternative treatments.

5. Keep a headache diary

Writing about your migraine during an attack may be the last thing you want to do. However, capturing what you’re able can be helpful to preventing or treating the next attack. Try to note the date and time migraine symptoms started; what you ate, drank, and did up to 24 hours before; how long the pain lasted; and what helped ease it. It’s especially important to note new symptoms and levels of intensity to share with your doctor.

6. Prepare a migraine emergency plan

Many people experiencing a migraine attack end up in the emergency room because symptoms become unmanageable at home. Urgent help may be necessary when symptoms are new or unusual for you, or they’re particularly severe. Your emergency room doctor won’t know your migraine history or what’s typical for you unless you can tell them. However, you may be in a position where you feel confused and can’t think or communicate clearly. Come up with a written “rescue plan” with your doctor in advance to share with emergency care teams. 

7. Have a migraine support system

According to the American Migraine Foundation, a migraine attack is the most disabling disease for adults under 49 years old, causing 90% of those who experience it to miss work, school, or social activities. Think about people who can cover some of your responsibilities if you’re unable. This can mean others who can prepare migraine-friendly meals, walk the dog, or make phone calls on your behalf. Make a list of personal resources, and ask your doctor about community resources and services.

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Medical Reviewer: Deena Kuruvilla, MD
Last Review Date: 2022 Sep 27
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.