There are several different types of over-the-counter migraine medications that sufferers can use to help alleviate the pain of their headaches. The four main drugs that are recommended are aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen. These drugs may be sold in different forms, under a variety of brand names, or in some cases combined with one another. Each has its pros and cons, including possible side effects, and most have the potential to cause rebound headaches if taken for more than a few days. Some may also work better than others, depending on the patient.
One type of over-the-counter migraine medication that patients can try is aspirin. Aspirin is typically sold as tablets, available under a variety of brand names such as Bayer and Bufferin, and is known to ease the pain of migraine headaches for some people. It can cause a variety of side effects including heartburn and ulcers, however, and should not be used by children as it can cause a potentially dangerous condition called Reye's syndrome.
Acetaminophen is another over-the-counter migraine medication that may relieve pain during an episode. It is typically sold by itself under brand names such as Tylenol or Excedrin, and usually has few side effects when taken as directed. It can cause liver problems if used for long periods of time, though, and it is not recommended for those with liver or kidney problems. Acetaminophen is also available in combination with aspirin and caffeine as Excedrin Migraine tablets.
A third option in over-the-counter migraine medications is ibuprofen. Several brands contain this drug, including Advil, Motrin, and Nuprin, with both Motrin and Advil providing migraine-specific types. Motrin Migraine comes in caplet form, while Advil Migraine is available in liquid gel tablets which can potentially provide faster relief. The dosage of ibuprofen in the migraine varieties is often the same as that in the standard versions, however, so they may be substituted if the migraine versions are unavailable or more expensive. Side effects can include stomach pain or upset, rash, and possibly liver damage if not taken as directed; it is also not recommended for people with kidney or gastrointestinal disorders.
Another drug which can be purchased over the counter which is known to help some migraine patients is naproxen. Sold under brand names such as Aleve, it has similar side effects to ibuprofen such as gastrointestinal upset, rash, and liver damage. It can also cause problems for those with existing GI or kidney issues.