Migraine Nasal Spray: What You Need to Know

Prescription nasal spray medications may help relieve migraine pain in some people. This article will explain more about nasal sprays, including how they help treat migraines.

Woman with a headache

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Nasal Spray Treatment Options

Nasal sprays help treat the symptoms of migraines but cannot prevent them from happening. A nasal spray will not reduce the number of migraines you get. However, they may provide rapid relief from a migraine in as little as 15 minutes.

A nasal spray can provide quick relief because the body can absorb the medications faster through the nose than in pill form. Your nose has many blood vessels that can absorb drugs. By entering the bloodstream through these blood vessels, medicine does not have to pass through your digestive system first.

Nasal sprays approved for treating acute migraine symptoms work by narrowing the blood vessels in the brain and reducing inflammation. They can also block pain signals.

Available Nasal Sprays for Migraine

The following prescription nasal sprays are available to treat migraine:

  • Triptans: Imitrex or Tosymra (sumatriptan) and Zomig (zolmitriptan)
  • Ergotamines: Migranal or Trudhesa (dihydroergotamine mesylate)
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug: Sprix (ketorolac)

Contact your healthcare professional if you are interested in a nasal spray for migraines.

How to Use Nasal Spray

You should use the nasal spray as soon as the symptoms of a migraine appear. In general, you want to follow these steps:

  1. Read the instructions on your nasal spray.
  2. Blow your nose.
  3. Take the cap off your nasal spray.
  4. Hold the spray without pressing the plunger.
  5. Block off one nostril by pressing down on it with a finger.
  6. Place the spray bottle’s tip inside the other nostril.
  7. While breathing in through the nose, spray the liquid.
  8. Remove the nasal spray bottle tip from your nose.
  9. Breathe in through the mouth for five to 10 seconds.
  10. Avoid tilting your head far back or sniffing, so the medicine does not move down your throat.

Make sure to read and follow the specific instructions on your nasal spray product. Ask your healthcare professional if you have questions about using the medication.

Effectiveness

Nasal sprays are considered to be highly effective treatment options for migraines. They can start to work in 15 minutes after you use them. However, nasal sprays work best if you use them as soon as the symptoms of a migraine appear.

According to the American Headache Society, nasal sprays are effective for treating migraines. Studies comparing nasal sprays to placebos (inactive sprays) show that the medications help treat the symptoms of migraines.

Benefits

The benefits of using nasal sprays for migraines are:

  • Fast relief from migraines
  • Prevention of nausea and vomiting associated with migraines
  • No need for injections
  • Effective way to stop migraines

Side Effects

The side effects of using nasal sprays for migraines may include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Irritated, stuffy, or runny nose
  • Unusual taste in your mouth
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Skin sensitivity around the nose

Summary

Nasal sprays are an effective treatment option for people who have migraines. They can work as quickly as 15 minutes if you take them at the first sign of a migraine. Although there are benefits to using nasal sprays, you should also be aware of the side effects.

A Word From Verywell

If you have migraines, you may want to consider using a nasal spray. Talk to your doctor about all of your treatment options to find the best one for you. You should not ignore migraine symptoms, and there are medications that may help.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Which nasal sprays are best for migraines?

    All nasal sprays approved by the Food and Drug and Drug Administration are effective, including triptans, dihydroergotamine, and ketorolac. Talk to your doctor to determine which one is best for your migraines.

  • Where can I buy a nasal spray for migraines?

    You can purchase nasal sprays for migraines at pharmacies. You will need a prescription from your doctor to buy one.

  • Who should not use nasal sprays for migraines?

    You should not take nasal sprays for migraines if you:

     

    • Have taken other triptans or ergot-type medications in the past 24 hours
    • Currently take a monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A) inhibitor such as Nardil (phenelzine) or took one in the last two weeks. These are a type of antidepressant and may also be used for migraine.


    Tell your doctor about the following conditions because they may affect your ability to use nasal sprays for migraines:

     

    • Allergies
    • Heart disease
    • Circulation problems
    • High blood pressure
    • High cholesterol
    • Diabetes
    • Liver disease
    • Kidney disease
    • Pregnancy
    • Smoking
    • Obesity

     

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Migraine Foundation. Nasal sprays for the treatment of migraine.

  2. MedlinePlus. Zolmitriptan nasal spray.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Acute migraine.

  4. Marmura MJ, Silberstein SD, Schwedt TJ. The acute treatment of migraine in adults: the American Headache Society evidence assessment of migraine pharmacotherapies. Headache. 2015;55(1):3-20. doi:10.1111/head.12499

By Lana Bandoim
Lana Bandoim is a science writer and editor with more than a decade of experience covering complex health topics.