When to Head to the Hospital With a Migraine Attack

B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional
Medically Reviewed
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Sometimes knowing whether you need to head to the hospital with a Migraine attack can be a really tough call. We have faced this decision many times with our little Miss Migraine. It’s an especially hard decision for us because our Children’s Hospital is three hours from our house. And, of course, a lot of us have concerns about how much an ER visit will cost.

Here are a few rules of thumb, but remember — you can always call your physician’s office or even your local ER to ask their opinion if you are unsure of what to do.

Acute Migraine medications are not working

If you have taken your max dose of Acute Migraine medications and are still experiencing a severe Migraine attack, it is time to call your physician or head to the ER. Take these Migraine attacks seriously and don’t take more medication than recommended; that could lead to serious medical issues on top of the Migraine.

The pain is more severe than usual

If your Migraine pain is worse than usual, it is time to be evaluated by a physician.  There are other conditions, like aneurysm or hemmorhage, that also begin with this severe type of pain.  The faster you seek treatment the better the outcome may be.

The Migraine has waxed and waned over several days

Many times a Migraine attack can last more than just one day.  If you find yourself in the cycle of lessening the Migraine with proper treatment only for it to come right back, known as status migrainous, then it is time to seek the advice of your physician.  This is what often sends our Miss Migraine to the Children’s ER.  The ER can provide a “Migraine cocktail” of medications and fluids that break the cycle for her. Some treatments can also be done in your neurologist’s office.

You are having new symptoms

If you are having any symptoms that are not usually present with your Migraine attacks, it is important to talk with your physician or head to the ER.

Some of those symptoms include:

  • Pain starts suddenly or worsens after physical exertion.
  • Severe nausea or vomiting
  • Fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Seizures
  • Vision changes
  • Changes in speech or behavior
  • Weakness on one side of the body or overall weakness

Ask your doctor what he or she advises if you have a Migraine emergency and when your symptoms warrant a trip to the ER.  This can help you develop a good plan so that you get the best possible care.

See more helpful articles:

Preventive, Abortive, and Rescue Medications - What's the Difference?

Teaching Others About Migraine - A Letter to Use

How Is Migraine Diagnosed?

Understanding the Anatomy of a Migraine