How to Ease Nausea During a Migraine

Two Methods:Taking Immediate Steps to Ease Pain and NauseaTaking Additional Steps to Reduce Migraines

Up to 75 percent of migraine suffers also describe symptoms of nausea and occasional vomiting accompanying the migraine.[1] In fact, the presence of nausea as a symptom is one of the ways medical professionals distinguish migraines from tension headaches, which are otherwise similar with regard to pain and other symptoms. To combat migraine-related nausea most effectively, you should learn ways to reduce migraine pain during attacks, as well as how to take long-term steps, such as identifying and managing triggers, that can potentially reduce the frequency of your migraines.

Method 1
Taking Immediate Steps to Ease Pain and Nausea

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    Drink water. Dehydration can worsen symptoms of migraine, as well as making the symptoms harder to treat by other methods.[2] Try to drink water even if in small sips to help avoid making your nausea worse.
    • Many migraine sufferers experience what is called a prodromal period of the migraine, which is the presence of symptoms before the truly painful attack of the headache. This period may include increased sensitivity to light and sound, as well as seeing a clouding or patterned change in your vision known as a visual “aura.” For best results, begin drinking water as soon as you identify the prodromal period of your oncoming migraine.
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    Loosen your clothing. Pressure against your abdomen can increase the perception of nausea.[3] If possible, remove tight-fitting clothing and put on something comfortable and loose fitting.
    • If you’re at work or someplace else where changing isn’t possible, remove (or at least loosen) your belt and undo the top button of your pants.
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    Turn off the lights. By reducing other symptoms of your migraine, you can also help alleviate the associated nausea and discomfort. One of the most common symptoms of migraine is sensitivity to light and sound.[4] Try secluding yourself to a dark room with minimal amounts of outside noise.[5]
    • If the silence leads you to focus too much on the nausea or throbbing headache, then try music you find soothing at a very low volume.
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    Take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever. Many OTC pain relievers (such as Tylenol and Excedrin) have special formulas meant to target migraines.[6] Take according to the manufacturer’s recommended dosage, and never exceed the specified daily amount on the packaging.
    • Most OTC formulas for migraine work better than normal formulas because they contain both acetaminophen and a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), which are usually packaged separately.[7] However, they contain the substances in a safe balance. Many also contain caffeine. You should not mix OTC drugs on your own.
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    Have a caffeinated drink. Caffeine can assist in relieving migraine pain.[8] You can try having a small cup of coffee or a portion of a caffeinated soda to help alleviate pain.
    • This can often help enhance the pain-relieving effect of an OTC painkiller, especially acetaminophen (Tylenol).[9]
    • Beware that caffeine is one of the substances that can also trigger migraines in some sufferers.[10] Discontinue trying this step if it seems to worsen or elongate your migraine and nausea symptoms.
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    Use hot or cold compresses. Try both hot and cold compresses both on your head and the back of your neck.[11] Migraine sufferers have reported both being helpful, but the effect is different for each individual. You may respond well to warm compresses but hate cold ones. See what works for you.
    • Ice packs can have a numbing effect on the pain, whereas hot compresses can help relieve muscle tension.[12]
    • Always wrap ice packs in a towel and alternate fifteen-minute periods of applying and taking away the pack to avoid any potential tissue damage from the cold.
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    Eat bland foods and avoid heavy meals. You may find that eating something bland can help to settle your stomach. Try to eat small amounts of bland food, like dry saltine crackers or plain yogurt. Pace yourself while eating, taking small bites of food to keep from overwhelming your stomach.[13]
    • Eating heavy meals can increase the pressure inside your stomach. With increased pressure, your nausea will get worse and may even lead to vomiting.
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    Relax. Since stress and exertion are two common migraine triggers, simply trying to relax is another way to help with symptoms.[14] For best results, try to identify your oncoming migraine in the prodromal stage before the onset of pain. Try to get off your feet and remove yourself from a stressful environment during this stage of your migraine before it has a chance to get worse.
    • If you practice yoga or other forms of meditation, these can also assist with relaxation in a way the helps with migraine symptoms.[15]
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    Try progressive muscle relaxation. Progressive muscle relaxation is one common technique that can help with migraine symptoms.[16] Starting with your toes and working toward your head, tense individual muscle groups for five seconds before progressively relaxing them for thirty seconds.[17] After each group, move to the next in ascending order.
    • This technique helps you focus on both muscle tension and relaxation throughout your whole body.[18] In addition to the relaxing effects, the focus on other portions of your body will disrupt your fixation on the migraine symptoms.
    • Pay special focus on relaxing your abdominal muscles since tension here can increase the perception of nausea.
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    Keep your breath fresh. Nausea can be a vicious cycle, especially if you actually vomit and prolong your nausea due to the acrid taste in your mouth. Rinse your mouth or brush your teeth and tongue to avoid making your nausea worse or last longer than necessary.
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    Drink ginger tea. Ginger has been associated with both migraine prevention and nausea relief, and some have reported reduced pain and frequency of migraines while using ginger.[19] Either fresh or powdered ginger steeped to make tea is the most common way to use ginger, though fresh is preferred if it is available.
    • You can also simply eat fresh ginger. However, the strong taste of ginger may be too much for the increased senses of taste and smell that can worsen nausea for migraine sufferers.
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    Use aromatherapy. Different scents can have either beneficial or detrimental effects when it comes to nausea symptoms. Lavender and peppermint are two common smells that people find calming.[20] Consider using one or two drops of an essential oil on a cotton ball to see if these scents help calm the gastrointestinal spasms contributing to your nausea.
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    Experiment with peppermint. Peppermint contains menthol which may be effective in treating migraine pain as well as easing nausea triggered by a migraine. Peppermint soothes the lining of your stomach thereby treating nausea.[21]
    • Take a teaspoon of peppermint leaves and add them to a cup of water. Cover the water and allow it to steep for about five minutes. Add honey to taste.
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    Try acupressure. Acupressure is a practice based on the same strategies used in acupuncture, except that you use pressure from your finger and not needles. Pressing points helps to release muscle tension and promote blood circulation to the area.[22]
    • Pressure point P-6 is a point on the inner arm that helps to relieve nausea and vomiting. Position your hand with your fingers pointing to the ceiling. Your palm should face you. Place the first three fingers of your other hand across your wrist so the fingers are running down the length of your arm. Place your thumb on the point just below the finger closest to the elbow, you should feel two large tendons. Press on this point using a circular motion for two to three minutes. This should not elicit any pain. Repeat on the other side.[23]

Method 2
Taking Additional Steps to Reduce Migraines

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    Manage your triggers. For many people, migraines and the subsequent symptoms—including nausea—are triggered by sources that they can control or reduce their exposure to.[24] Keep track of what you were doing shortly before your migraine came on over the course of several attacks, and see if you can find a consistent trigger. Common ones include:[25]
    • Emotional or physical fatigue due to stress or exertion
    • Abrupt changes in weather
    • Altitude
    • Motion such as from travel
    • Poor sleep
    • Missing meals
    • Certain smells
    • Hormonal changes, such as in menstruating women
    • Specific foods and beverages, including aged cheese, chocolate, red wines, coffee, beer, etc. (also, certain food additives such as monosodium glutamate and nitrates)
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    See your doctor. Your doctor will be able to provide prescriptions to a wide selection of different medications that have shown efficacy in managing nausea and other migraine symptoms. These medications often require trial and error to discover which combination works best to control your symptoms.
    • If you are vomiting at least three times a day, you need to see your doctor. Vomiting too much will predispose you to fluid and electrolyte imbalance.
    • Be sure to see your doctor if you develop a worsening headache. A bleeding blood vessel might be causing the problem.
    • Visit your doctor if your migraine headache is accompanied by fever, stiff neck, seizures, double vision, numbness, difficulty in speaking, and other unusual manifestations. [26]
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    Ask about triptans. Triptans are some of the most common prescription drugs used to treat migraines. They constrict blood vessels and block pain pathways to your brain to alleviate various symptoms of migraines.[27] They are available in various forms—such as pills, nasal sprays, and injections—and the medications include:[28]
    • Sumatriptan (Imitrex)
    • Rizatriptan (Maxalt)
    • Almotriptan (Axert)
    • Naratriptan (Amerge)
    • Zolmitriptan (Zomig)
    • Frovatriptan (Frova)
    • Eletriptan (Relpax)
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    Ask about anti-nausea medications. To deal directly with the nausea from your migraines, you can also ask your doctor about anti-nausea medications. He or she will likely prescribe one in combination with a drug to treat other symptoms as well. Some common anti-nausea medications include:[29]
    • Chlorpromazine
    • Metoclopramide (Reglan)
    • Prochlorperazine (Compro)
    • Ondansetron (zofran)


  • If you are having constant bouts with migraine and nausea, it is best to discuss this with your doctor. You can also see a neurologist who is specialized in dealing with migraine.
  • Acquire as much information as possible about migraine and its accompanying symptoms. This will give you more knowledge on how to effectively deal with this illness.
  • If nausea is the primary symptom associated with the migraine, you may want to consider seeing a gastroenterologist. There is an entity known as abdominal migraines or gastrointestinal migraines.


  • Overusing medications like Excedrin can lead to a rebound effect of the migraines.

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Categories: Pain Management and Recovery