The People's Perspective on Medicine

Aspirin at the First Hint of Aura Stops Migraine Quickly

Taking aspirin or a combination of aspirin with acetaminophen and caffeine when a migraine aura first appears may prevent the migraine that would otherwise follow.
African american businesswoman feeling unwell suffering from headache migraine touching forehead at team meeting, upset black woman employee frustrated by business problem or work stress, head shot

Migraines are debilitating headaches, usually affecting one side of the head with throbbing or pulsating pain. Some people get a warning in the form of a “prodrome” of symptoms that may occur a few days before the headache itself strikes. Approximately 20 to 30 percent of migraine sufferers notice an aura shortly before the pain begins. This is a sensory disturbance; it could be sounds or smells, but usually it is visual.  People may have bright flashes, zig-zags or other distortions in their vision. If a person prone to migraines can use migraine medicine during the short time that an aura is present, they may be able to prevent the pain. Here’s what one reader reports.

Taking Aspirin During an Aura Wards Off the Migraine:

Q. I’ve had migraines, maybe a couple of them a year, for many years. When I first see the aura, I’ve found that taking an aspirin within minutes of the beginning of the aura does the trick for me. It halts the migraine entirely. I don’t know if this would work for anyone else, but it’s been a lifesaver for me.

A. Medical guidelines suggest that aspirin or another NSAID is effective for mild to moderate migraine attacks (Acta Neurologica Taiwanica, June 15, 2017).  Acetaminophen (Tylenol) in combination with an NSAID such as diclofenac, ibuprofen or naproxen can also stop an attack (Continuum, Aug. 2015).

Acetaminophen, Aspirin & Caffeine:

The makers of Excedrin Migraine have capitalized on the combination of acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine. A randomized controlled trial demonstrated that this combination is better than placebo for treating migraines (Cephalalgia, Nov. 2014). This combination is cost-effective, and the relief sets in more quickly than it does with ibuprofen (Headache, March 2006).

People who suffer migraines tell us that utilizing the treatment at the first hint of an aura increases the chance of success. Instead of medication, some people use cold ice cream, a milkshake or iced coffee. These too work best if taken when the aura is first apparent.

Learn More:

You can read more about averting migraine pain in our Guide to Headaches and Migraines. Our most recent radio interview on this topic was Show 1133: How Can You Overcome Migraine Headaches? with Dr. Jennifer Kriegler of the Cleveland Clinic.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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The FDA recently approved a new medication, erenumab (Aimovig), to prevent migraine headaches in people who experience them frequently. There are also treatments and lifestyle changes that can make a

Show 1133: How Can You Overcome Migraine Headaches?
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I suffered with migraines for nearly 30 years. My aura would be a colored “gear” churning around from my left eye to my right eye. I couldn’t see. I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t get relief. It would put me to bed, and I was off the grid for 6 hours. I lived in fear of these attacks. Lo and behold, one day I took flonase at the first sign, and I can honestly say it was a godsend. The attack only lasts about 30 minutes now, which makes me wonder if the whole thing isn’t sinus related. What do you think?

A baby aspirin works for me. I carry them in my purse. Whenever I start to see lights flashing, I immediately take one pill and it prevents a full fledged migraine from developing.

I think what Vince is referring to are ocular or ophthalmic migraines. I get these, too. They involve bright, flashing lights but simply pass in 20-30 minutes with no actual headache occurring. However, it is important to note here that if any of your readers are experiencing bright, flashing, jagged lights for the first time, they should see an ophthalmologist immediately, as this can also be a sign of a detached retina.

I learned years ago that at the first sign of the slightest discomfort in the back of my head I had to take Aspirin or Ibuprofen, and it would go away. If I put it off, because it was such a little sensation, and I was busy, a couple of hours later I had a migraine.

Medicating 100% works for me, and I’ve done this for decades. As soon as I start seeing the zig-zags, I take whatever pain reliever I have on hand, and the migraine never develops.

Thanks for the tip. I get auras without migraines every once in a while. They can be very intense and discombobulating. I look forward to trying the remadies mentioned.

Plain old Excedrin has the exact same ingredients as Excedrin Migraine and usually costs less. A couple ibuprofen and a cup of coffee almost always does the trick for me.

I developed severe migraine syndrome…one sided head pain, impaired vision, nausea, vomiting, dizziness with both light and sound sensitivity. After a few I understood that I had auras prior to each attack. My doctor, knowing my sensitivity to drugs, suggested I take Excedrin Migraine at the first sign of a migraine. It works! I still do have symptoms but much milder and for shorter duration. I am also left kind of foggy and find it difficult to focus or concentrate well for a day or so after each one.

Having had migraines for over 60 years, I’ve found some answers. among them that Imitrex works for me and I don’t need the full dose, so cut them up. A few years ago I had an aura that didn’t quit for over 24 hours, and finally tried a bit of the Imitrex (generic) and it worked – in just a few minutes. There are many triggers for headaches and one must figure out which ones are the culprits. as I have done.

Never give up as there are new products as well as anecdotal help, and also don’t forget the internet for more info.

I have found that 3 aspirin and a can of regular cola works best for me

My daughter-in-law had terrible Migraine headaches, she now wears an ear ring on the middle part of both ears (this is where an accupuncture is done for Migraines), she hasn’t had a Migraine since.

I have seen these Auras for many years, I am a 77 year old male. In my case I see bright flashes
but I also see an inverted C backwards lit up like Neon yellow but fortunately I dont get Migrane headaches

I’ve also found that the combination of aspirin, acetaminophen, and caffeine is often an effective medication for my migraines. As the article mentions, this is packaged specifically as ‘migraine headache’ pain relief – however, the identical combination and strengths of ingredients is also packaged as regular headache medication and is significantly less expensive.

I have had migraines my whole life. When I reached puberty, I began having an aura before the headache would develop. After my first pregnancy (over 30 years ago) my auras stopped but I still had migraines. I take Excedrin Migraine, and it stops the migraine the vast majority of the time (the only time it may not stop it is if I don’t take it soon enough). A few weeks ago, after 30 years without an aura, I had one. I immediately took Excedrin Migraine and I never developed a headache!

It is worth a try. I have heard that if you use Vicks Vapor Rub on your temple at the first sign of a migraine it will help. Also I have also heard if you put an ice cube in your mouth and push the the ice cube up against the roof of your mouth and leave it there it suppose to stop the migraine. All I can say, it is worth a try. Would love to know if someone had tried either one whether it does really help.

I make a large smoothie with frozen fruit and almond milk – like a thick shake – and then try to give myself brain freeze by holding the smoothie to the roof of my mouth and the top of my throat. It stops the migraine around 50% of the time.

I get these visual auras myself. First time it happened, I was driving and had to pull over for 20 minutes until it passed, as I couldn’t see anything in front of me. I continue to get them from time to time and have noticed a bright light or watching tv or working on the computer will bring them on occasionally. I will sometimes get a migraine afterwards, but not always, the eye doc just shrugs and says live with them.

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