Doctors can prescribe nasal sprays to provide quick relief for migraine symptoms. Side effects may include a bad taste, nausea, and heart problems.

Migraine causes moderate to severe pain, usually on one side of the head. Other symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound.

Treatment typically involves oral medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), but doctors may also prescribe injections or nasal sprays.

This article looks at nasal sprays as a treatment for migraine episodes, including how well they work, how to use them, and how long it can take to feel better.

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Nasal sprays contain medications like sumatriptan, a type of triptan that treats migraine symptoms and cluster headaches.

According to a 2021 article, migraine nasal sprays can be effective, especially when they target the upper nasal space.

The article’s authors suggest nasal sprays allow for rapid medication absorption through the nasal mucosa. Since they do not pass through the gastrointestinal tract, they can provide faster relief than oral medications for some people.

This can be especially helpful for those who experience nausea or vomiting as part of their migraine symptoms and may have trouble swallowing or keeping down a pill.

However, the authors highlight that most nasal sprays target a person’s lower nasal space, where absorption is limited. And, as with any medication, the effectiveness can vary from person to person.

Some people may find that nasal sprays provide rapid and effective relief, while others may not notice a significant difference or may experience side effects that make the medication less tolerable.

Instructions may vary slightly depending on the brand and formulation of the nasal spray. Generally, people should shake the bottle well, remove the cap, and insert the nozzle into one nostril while blocking the other.

Then, press down on the bottle to release the spray while breathing in through the nose and keeping the head upright.

Tilting the head backward can cause the spray to run down the throat, essentially turning it into an oral medication, which can delay and reduce its effectiveness.

Some nasal sprays may require priming, spraying a few times into the air over a sink before the first use, or if the bottle has been unused for a long period.


The correct dosage depends on the specific medication and a person’s individual needs. People should follow their doctor’s guidance and not use more than their doctor advises.

If someone’s symptoms do not go away after using a nasal spray, they should speak with their doctor before increasing their dose.

Using alongside other treatments

A person should speak with their doctor or pharmacist before using migraine nasal sprays alongside other treatments. Healthcare professionals can provide advice to help a person combine medications safely and get the most benefit from them.

According to the American Migraine Foundation, people should not:

  • mix different types of triptan
  • use a nasal dihydroergotamine (DHE) within 24 hours of a triptan
  • take nasal ketorolac on the same day they have taken other NSAIDs

Most people do not experience side effects from sumatriptan nasal sprays. However, some people might experience pain or tightness in the chest and throat.

Other potential side effects of sumatriptan nasal sprays include:

The time it takes for nasal sprays to work can vary depending on the medication and the person. However, nasal sprays are generally designed for quick absorption through the nasal mucosa to provide rapid relief.

The nasal spray form of sumatriptan can relieve migraine pain and other symptoms as soon as 15 minutes after administration. Most people can expect to experience relief within 2 hours of administration.

While nasal sprays can provide rapid relief for migraine symptoms, they may not work for everyone. Some people may require a different form of medication or a combination of treatments to effectively manage their migraine episodes.

Other than nasal sprays, many different treatment options are available for migraine symptoms.

Acute treatments

People can use acute treatments when they have a migraine. They may include:

  • Triptans: Triptans narrow the blood vessels in the brain and block the release of certain natural substances that cause pain, nausea, and other migraine symptoms. They are available in oral tablet form as well as nasal sprays.
  • NSAIDs: Over-the-counter (OTC) oral NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve), can be effective for mild to moderate migraine episodes.
  • Ergotamines: This is an older class of drugs, which includes the medications ergotamine (Ergomar) and dihydroergotamine (D.H.E. 45, Migranal), which can be nasal sprays, oral tablets, or injections.

Preventive treatments

Preventive treatments aim to stop migraine episodes from happening. According to a 2018 article, preventive treatments can include:

  • Beta-blockers: These are drugs that treat high blood pressure, but some can also effectively prevent migraine episodes, including propranolol (Inderal, Innopran XL) and metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL).
  • Antidepressants: Antidepressants such as amitriptyline (Elavil) may help to prevent migraine episodes.
  • Antiepileptic drugs: Certain antiepileptic drugs, such as topiramate (Topamax) and valproate (Depakote), can be effective in preventing migraine episodes.
  • Botox injections: OnabotulinumtoxinA (Botox) injections can prevent chronic migraine episodes for some people.
  • Lifestyle changes: Changes such as regular exercise, identifying and reducing triggers, and relaxation training may help to prevent migraine episodes.

People should speak with a healthcare professional if they experience frequent migraine episodes that affect their quality of life or if migraine symptoms are particularly severe and OTC medications do not provide relief.

People should also seek medical advice if there is a change in migraine symptoms, such as increased severity or frequency, or new associated symptoms.

Nasal sprays can be an effective way of treating migraine episodes and may work to relieve symptoms faster than oral medications.

However, effectiveness may vary depending on the person. People should always discuss with their doctor before trying a new medication.

A healthcare professional can help someone develop a comprehensive treatment plan that may include a combination of medications, lifestyle changes, and other nondrug therapies.