Ingredients, side effects and safety

So, are you here for the migraine cocktails? I hate to break it to you, but there’s no alternate reality where pretty sips with cute. llas will soothe your pain.

A migraine cocktail is not a cocktail at all. It is a combination of professional drugs designed to relieve the symptoms of severe migraine.

Plot ? Let’s dive into the ingredients and side effects, then consider other migraine relief methods.

If your throbbing head, distorted vision, and nausea land you in the ER, you might get a migraine cocktail. It’s a common treatment option offered for acute, incessant migraine attacks, I’ll do anything to get through it.

Often given intravenously (IV), these “cocktails” are made with a specific blend of drugs to soothe your most severe symptoms. The emergency team can pump steroids, NSAIDs, and other prescription-infused fluids into your arm until you begin to feel mild, gentle relief.

For example, you might receive a combo IV of:

  • steroids to reduce inflammation
  • metoclopramide (Reglan) to soothe nausea
  • diphenhydramine (Benadryl) in case your migraine is related to histamines or allergies

PSA: Research on Benadryl’s effect on migraine is fairly inconclusive. It is a common “cocktail” ingredient, but there is little significant evidence that it matters.

Other key info:

  • Migraine cocktail offer reliefnot a cure, for about 1 in 7 American adults who face these debilitating and painful episodes.
  • A doctor should mix this cocktail – doctors are pros for a reason.
  • The effects of the medications may take about an hour to show up.

Are they safe for children?

Toddlers can have migraine attacks just like adults. Researchers say that up to 18% of young people who end up in the emergency room are there because of a migraine.

And guess what? The same medications used in an adult migraine cocktail can help relieve migraine attacks in children. Yay! Fun for the whole family!

Just be sure to tell the ER doctor about your child’s medical history and underlying conditions before suggesting a migraine cocktail. And of course, rely on doctor’s judgment for the best treatment(s) and dose to help your little one find relief.

A little.

When we talk about migraine cocktails, we’re usually referring to the intravenous drip you get in the emergency room for a severe migraine attack.

Still, a trio of over-the-counter (OTC) medications are available to help combat killer headaches:

  • Aspirin: 250 milligrams
  • Acetaminophen (aka Tylenol): 250 milligrams
  • Caffeine: 65 milligrams

Some research from the early 2000s suggests that taking these three medications at the same time can relieve migraine symptoms more than taking a single pain reliever.

The research may be older (Smash Mouth was still cutting edge back then), but the effects of the pills on your body remain the same (hey, now it’s still a star).

Basically, aspirin soothes inflammation while acetaminophen reduces pain, and caffeine narrows your blood vessels, which helps cool your throbbing noggin.

There is nothing casual about taking pills. It is always best to consult your doctor before combining medications or dosing with over-the-counter caffeine. You could end up with a mess of unwanted side effects.

In general, check the drug’s label to determine which ingredients are active (aim for the three above) and perform the combo in front of your doctor before trying it.

Like any medicine, most ingredients in a migraine cocktail can have side effects. Here are the possible side effects based on the doctor’s prescriptions.


Side effects, known as “triptan sensations, include:

Antiemetics and neuroleptics

These can have unforeseen side effects, including:

  • low blood pressure when standing
  • restlessness
  • drowsiness
  • dystonia (involuntary muscle movements)

Ergot alkaloids

Possible side effects include:


NSAIDs can upset your stomach lining and cause:

If you are elderly or have underlying kidney problems, it is best to avoid NSAIDs as they could cause you serious problems.


Depending on the steroid, a high dose can cause:

OTC “cocktails against migraine”

Based on the ingredients (acetaminophen, NSAIDs, and caffeine), an over-the-counter migraine cocktail can lead to:

This is definitely something you should ask your doctor or healthcare team about. They will use your medical history and current health to determine which drug mix is ​​safest (and most effective!) for you.

Oh, and those over-the-counter migraine cocktails? They are *not* safe for everyone. Avoid over-the-counter combinations of aspirin, acetaminophen, and caffeine if any of these apply to you:

  • You know you are allergic to any or all of the ingredients in the medications.
  • You are already taking a medicine containing acetaminophen.
  • You are under 12 years old.
  • You know you are at risk for headaches from overusing medications.

Good news! Migraine cocktails are *not* the only way to hand an eviction notice to your pain.

If your headache is only getting worse, you may be able to control it with mild over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or NSAIDs (ibuprofen or aspirin).

Honestly: Solo Medications That Can Help

Any ingredient used in a migraine cocktail can be enough to soothe your pain. A few solo medications that might help:

  • triptans (such as sumatriptan, rizatriptan, and almotriptan)
  • ergot alkaloids (such as dihydroergotamine and ergotamine tartrate)
  • gepants (to kick your acute migraine gepain into gepants – types include ubrogepant and rimegepant)
  • ditans (like lasmiditan)

You can also take preventive measures against chronic migraine:

  • Botox. Yes, these facial injections that freeze wrinkles could also help prevent migraine attacks for some people.
  • Medicines for blood pressure. Beta blockers and calcium channel blockers may help prevent migraine attacks.
  • Antidepressants. *Some* antidepressants (of the tricyclic type – ask your doctor for details) can help prevent migraine attacks.
  • Anticonvulsant drugs. Options include valproate and topiramate (Topamax).
  • CGRP inhibitors. These are injections that help some people avoid future migraine attacks.

Other Ways to Find Relief

Natural remedies probably won’t fix a migraine attack that’s been battling you for days, but they can nip one in the bud right from the start.

Some of these tips soothe the pain, while others can help prevent it from starting in the first place. Either way, it’s best to try to treat a migraine attack before you end up in the emergency room receiving cocktails of drugs:

  • Relax. Yes, stress = a fairly common migraine trigger. So dive into meditation and breathing exercises if you feel the pain coming. (Or even if you don’t – why would anyone *want* to be stressed all the time?)
  • Go with the flow. Yoga flow i.e. has been shown to help with migraine.
  • Acupressure or acupuncture. Whether you opt for deep, firm pressure or fine, precise needles, releasing pressure points helps some people prevent migraine pain.
  • Take your vitamins and supplements. Vitamin B2, vitamin D, and the hormone melatonin have all been linked to a reduction in the duration and frequency of migraine attacks.
  • Boost your magnesium. Low levels of this essential mineral could trigger migraine attacks. Add more magnesium to your diet through supplements or magnesium-rich foods like nuts, seeds, and green vegetables.

Talk to your doctor before adding any new supplements to your routine, as they may interfere with your prescription medications or underlying health conditions. #BetterSafeThanSorry

A migraine cocktail is not a drink. It is a mixture of drugs used to treat the severe symptoms of migraine.

You usually receive a migraine cocktail intravenously in the emergency room. But it *is* possible to combine three over-the-counter products — aspirin, acetaminophen, and caffeine — for a milder treatment. Like any other medicine, these can have side effects.

Certain lifestyle changes and natural remedies can also help relieve migraine pain.

If you live with a severe or chronic migraine, talk to your doctor. Only a medical professional can determine the best cocktail of treatments and medications that will work for you.

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