Migraine headaches can be completely debilitating and those of us that suffer from them could be at a severe disadvantage during a prolonged emergency. While their exact cause is still a mystery most doctors think they are related to the spasming of the large blood vessels in the brain.
A severe migraine could render a person unable to help others and unable to help themselves during a long term emergency placing them at risk and burdening whoever they are with at the time. Which is why it’s important to have a plan of action for those severe headaches incase outside medical help is no longer available.
While nothing listed here is a cure – hopefully by experimenting and researching you will find some combination of treatments and supplements that will give you enough relief to allow you to function. When all is said and done in the case of migraines, finding ‘something’ to treat them with may be better than nothing at all. Here are some options:
Most of those who suffer from chronic migraines have been prescribed some form of medication or another – if for no other reason than lack of other options. They have tried everything else, and nothing works. These meds are usually something similar to Sumatriptan (Imitrex) and need to be taken at the onset of a headache for maximum effectiveness or they are a preventative that is taken daily.
Regardless of your medication type, having a supply on hand could be invaluable. In the likely event that your doctor is unwilling to prescribe you enough medication to have reserve supply you can try setting aside a little bit of meds on each refill yourself. For example if you have an ongoing prescription and it is eligible for a refill, but you aren’t out of migraine meds yet – you can choose to refill it right away and stash the few extra doses aside. Over time you can build a small stockpile in this manner for emergencies (even then use it ONLY as directed by your medical professional).
Natural and Over the Counter Medicine
Knowing that even a stock pile of prescription medication will only last so long it would only benefit migraine sufferers to explore other natural treatments and preventatives as well as pinpointing migraine triggers. Here are some things I have tried myself with limited success (as always please consult a medical professional before beginning any new treatment or vitamin regimen):
Epsom Salts (Magnesium) – Magnesium patches have been prescribed for people to help treat migraine headaches as it is widely thought that many migraines are triggered by a magnesium deficiencies. An alternative to a magnesium patch is just to take an Epsom Salt bath, your body will absorb the magnesium through the skin much like it would from a patch. Epsom salts also have many other uses and are a handy item to stock.
If epsom salt baths aren’t your thing, and a patch doesn’t sound fun you can try taking 400 to 600 mg of magnesium a day. This has been suggested as the supplement dosage for migraine relief (source). This can be applied to prepping by stocking extra epsom salts, magnesium patches, or a magnesium supplements or all of the above. Adjustments in diet can also help to correct a magnesium deficiency (click here to learn more).
Riboflavin – 400mg/day (Vitamin B2) – Has shown notable effectiveness as a migraine preventative. When trying it don’t get impatient because it can take up to three months to start working, and don’t exceed the RDA if you are pregnant (source).
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) – Was shown in a recent study to be a promising form of OTC preventative to see the study results click here with 50% of the trail participants showing a reduced frequency of migraine headaches. Doses used for the study ranged from 150 mg a day to 600 mg a day. CoQ10 can interact with several medications, always check with your doctor before adding new supplements to your diet.
Feverfew – Is a herbal supplement available at health food stores an online that has been shown to have some effectiveness in the treatment and prevention of migraines (source). Feverfew can also be grown in an herb garden at home (click here to find feverfew seeds). I have found the raw plant leafs to be MUCH more effective than the dry capsule supplement from the store (warning – it’s tastes absolutely awful, and do not swallow the raw leafs) be careful when trying the plant raw some people have reported mouth sores, and loss of taste. Also feverfew is not recommended if you are pregnant or nursing, see this source for warning information –> (source) .
Butterbur – Is another herbal supplement available at health food stores and online that has shown some promise in the treatment (duration) and prevention of migraines (source). While butterbur can be grown at home only butterbur root extract that has been commercially processed and detoxified can be safely consumed internally. Otherwise, all parts of the plant are poisonous and should not be internally consumed, see this source for warning information –> (source). For safety purposes look for butterbur products that are certified and labeled “PA-free.”
Peppermint Tea – Can help settle your stomach during a migraine, and while it doesn’t seem to help the pain I would like to note that it does seem to help the pain of a normal headaches. Ginger tea will also help with nausea. Peppermint is exceedingly easy to grow, has many many other uses and is a great addition to any herb garden.
Peppermint Essential Oil – Rubbed on to the temples seems to help sooth the pain of a migraine and shorten the length of it when used in combination with regular medication. I have no idea why this works, but it does for me. TIP: Peppermint essential oil will be more well tolerated by your skin if it is slightly diluted with a carrier oil. If you grow your own peppermint you can make a peppermint ‘oil infusion’ that will also work for this application to learn how click here.
Instant Cold Packs – At the base of the head. Heat will help a tension headache but it seems to only aggravate migraines. Cold has been shown to be the trick to helping with migraines. Instant cold packs (ice created by a chemical reaction) gives a person access to an ice pack even in the absence of electricity. Instant cold packs can be found online, in the pharmacy section of your grocery store or big box store and (my favorite place) the dollar store in the first aid section!
Over The Counter (OTC) Drugs – Some migraine headaches do respond to OTC medicine. Among them acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil) and caffeine seems the most effective. Another OTC migraine product, Excedrin Migraine, is a combination of Aspirin, Acetaminophen and Caffeine. Prepping these will expand your arsenal of treatments (be careful using ibuprofen and other OTC drugs to treat migraines – many claim to suffer from bad rebound headaches after taking large amounts of OTC drugs to treat migraines).
Sunglasses – Migraine headaches make most people who suffer from them light sensitive, this is a very common symptom. Keeping a couple of spare pairs around will help lessen the discomfort incase a quiet dark room is not an option. Pick up several pair at your local dollar store – the bigger the glasses, the better.
A dark quiet room, with the window open (shades drawn but window open if it is cool outside) is really one of the best treatments for a migraine once it has hit – the thing is, people try to tough it out, this will be especially tempting in the midst of an prolonged emergency. Toughing it out only makes a migraine worse and last longer (taking you out of commission for an even longer period of time), making yourself go rest in a quiet dark room will almost always reduce the intensity and length of the migraine and get you back to your normal helpful self faster.
Store migraine treatment supplies in your emergency first aid container/s, and remember to rotate your supplies so nothing goes bad. Herbs and vitamins will go bad much faster than OTC drugs like Advil which have been shown to be nearly 100% effective years after the expiration date (source). Use older supplies as you need them and regularly replace them with new supplies always maintaining at least a year’s supply inventory level.
Preparedness supplies should never be thrown away because they went bad, they should be in constant continuous use. Essential oils, vitamins and herbs should be kept away from heat and sunlight in preferably in dark bottles. Epsom salts should be sealed up in a water proof container and kept away from moisture. And finally click here –> for a great article on what Vitamins to store for Emergency Preparedness and how.
Author’s note: While I do suffer migraine headaches, I am not a doctor nor am I a lawyer – always consult with your physician before starting any new treatment for your migraine headaches. For another good article about headaches check out this one (by clicking here) by Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy.