Table 3

Triptans: specific acute/rescue treatments for primary headaches

Beware: To avoid medication overuse headache, use on no more than 2 days/week
8. Sumatriptan
6–9 yearsOral25 mg at onset, repeat once after at least 2 hours if needed, max 2 days/weekTabs: 50 mg
Injection: 6 mg/0.5 mL
Nasal spray: 10 mg /0.1 mL actuation (2 and 6 unit dose sprays available)
Cardiac disease.
Tingling, tightness, flushing, dizziness, nasty taste (nasal spray)
10–18 yearsOral50–100 mg at onset, repeat once after at least 2 hours, max 2 days/week
Subcutaneous6 mg at onset, repeat once after at least 1 hour, max 2 days/week
Intranasal10–20 mg at onset, repeat once after at least 2 hours, max 40 mg/day, max 2 days/week
9. Zolmitriptan
12–18 yearsOral2.5–5 mg at onset, repeat once after at least 2 hours, max 10 mg/day, max 2 day/weekTabs: 2.5 mg
Orodispersible: melts 2.5 mg
Nasal spray: 5 mg /0.1 mL actuation
Cardiac disease.
Tingling, tightness, flushing, dizziness, nasty taste (nasal spray)
Intranasal5 mg at onset, repeat once after at least 2 hours, max 10 mg/day, max 2 day/week
Other triptans include rizatriptan (halve the dose if on propranolol), almotriptan, eletriptan, frovatriptan, naratriptan, with less experience in children and young people
  • Used together with NSAID or paracetamol.

  • Some of the drugs/doses below are outwith the marketing authorisation. Always check usual reference sources/guidelines when using unfamiliar medicines.11

  • Max, maximum; NSAID, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug; tabs, tablets.