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12. Over-the-counter options for treatment

I have started to get some headaches, and wondered if there is anything that I can buy that might help?

Most people with headache and migraine use over-the-counter (OTC – without a prescription) medication very effectively. We all have headaches from time to time, and using medication every now and again is not a problem. Different drugs work differently: depending on the headache you have, most simple painkillers work well, especially if taken early enough.

I tried taking aspirin for my headache but it did not help very much. There are so many different brands, how can I decide what else to try?

Different brands often have different amounts of aspirin in the tablet, and may have other drugs or compounds in the tablet. The mix may include paracetamol or codeine as well as some caffeine. The only way to find out which one works for you is to try it, but you have to make sure that you are treating the right headache with the right option.

You may need to seek advice from your doctor to determine which headache you have and/or what treatment is best.

Does it make any difference if I buy painkillers from the local chemist or the supermarket?

No, it doesn’t. If you have a painkiller that works well for your headache, where you buy it will not make any difference. What you need to think about is making sure that you only have a headache now and again.

I have tried various drugs from the chemist but I just seem to vomit them back. Is there anything else I could buy?

There are some over-the-counter (OTC) options that contain drugs to help with the nausea and vomiting. Migraleve contains an anti-nausea drug as well as paracetamol to treat migraine. You can also buy a drug called domperidone over the counter, which will help the nausea and get the painkiller absorbed more quickly.

Do things like for head work?

My reply is: does it work for you? It can help some people ease their headache symptoms. If you find that it helps, then fine; others find that a cold flannel can work just as well.

I have just heard that there is a new drug I can get from my pharmacist without a prescription. I think it is called Imigran. What is it?

It is indeed Imigran but it is not in fact a new drug. It has been available for over 10 years but until recently has been available only on prescription from your doctor. It is one of a group or class of drugs called triptans. There are seven different triptans and Imigran  (generic name sumatriptan) is one of them. You will need to speak to your pharmacist, who will ask you some questions to check that it is a suitable drug for you to use.

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