Emergency Migraine and Headache Care - Options and Helpful Forms
Managing Migraines, cluster headaches, and other headache disorders can be horribly difficult. You can all attest to that, I'm sure. One of the most difficult aspects of dealing with any of these is those times when our treatments don't work well and, despite our best efforts, we find ourselves needing to head to the emergency room or an urgent care facility.
Since this is such a problem for so many of us, it's helpful to periodically take a look at what we can do to:
- Stay out of ERs and urgent care facilities as much as possible, and
- do all we can to be prepared for these visits so they're less difficult and more productive.
Avoiding ERs and urgent care facilities:
Effective Migraine and headache management should include three types of treatment:
- preventive (if Migraines or headaches are frequent enough to warrant preventive treatment),
- abortive, and
You can read about the different types of medications in Preventive, Abortive, and Rescue Medications - What's the Difference?
Working closely with our doctors is the best way to minimize the need for emergency treatment. Please take a look at Migraineur's Guide to a Successful Doctor's Appointment.
ER or urgent car facility?
when we need emergency care for a Migraine or headache, the question of whether to go to the emergency room or an urgent care facility can come up. There's no universally correct answer to this question. It depends on the hospitals and urgent care facilities where we live and their policies. The urgent care facilities in my area will not treat Migraines or headaches because they don't have imaging equipment, so they can't do any imaging studies to check for problems.
Forms to Help with emergency care:
When we do need to go to the ER or an urgent care facility, there are ways to ease the situation. I've created some forms to help with this.
One is a form that we complete in advance:
- full name, address, phone number, etc.
- our insurance information
- pain scale rating
- medications taken for this Migraine or headache
- other medications
- known allergies
There's also a second form that our doctors can complete. That form:
- Confirms our diagnosis.
- Explains that we are not "drug seekers," but may need medications not available for our use at home.
- Suggests appropriate emergency treatment.
Everyone who has used these forms report that the first one has always been well accepted when they're presented it. In fact, it's appreciated because it eases registration and reduces the time it takes. Unfortunately, the second form is not always helpful. Some doctors refuse to even look at it, and some who do look at it don't agree with the treatment suggestions. We can't control how doctors react to these forms, but it certainly can't hurt to ask our doctors to complete the second form and give it a try.
You can download copies of these forms from Emergency Migraine and Headache Care - Forms to Help. There are forms here for Migraine and Cluster Headaches, the two most common reasons to seek emergency care for headache or Migraine.
Summary and comments:
We all want to avoid having to go for emergency care whenever possible. This can often, but not always, be achieved by having rescue options. If your doctor won't discuss rescue treatment with you, it's probably time for a new doctor. It may well be time to consult a Migraine and headache specialist. It’s important to note that neurologists aren’t necessarily Migraine and headache specialists. Take a look at the article Migraine and Headache Specialists - What's So Special? If you need help finding a Migraine specialist, check our listing of Patient Recommended Migraine and Headache Specialists.
Also, it's vital to ask our doctors at our first appointment how it's handled when we need help during evenings, weekends, and holidays. If they don't have an answer for this question, consider another doctor.
Despite the our best efforts and those of our doctors, there may be time when we must seek care in an emergency room or urgent care facility. Hopefully, between advice our doctors have given us and the forms linked to above, we can make it easier.
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