Headaches are one of the most common pain-related health problems in both children and adults. You may have a headache along with another minor health problem such as a sore throat, cold, or sinus problem.
The most common types of headaches usually are not serious but may occur again and again.
Common causes of headaches include:
Although rare, a headache may be a symptom of a serious illness. Other symptoms, such as vomiting, dizziness, or changes in vision, may also be present. The following serious illnesses or injuries can cause headaches.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Neurological symptoms—which may be signs of a problem with the nervous system—can affect many body functions. Symptoms may include:
Pain in adults and older children
You can get dehydrated when you lose a lot of fluids because of problems like vomiting or fever.
Symptoms of dehydration can range from mild to severe. For example:
Many prescription and nonprescription medicines and supplements can cause headaches. A few examples are:
Severe dehydration means:
Moderate dehydration means:
Mild dehydration means:
Symptoms of serious illness may include:
Here are some examples of possible changes in your usual pattern of headaches:
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Most of the time headaches get better or go away with home treatment and do not require a visit to a doctor. Home treatment for headaches can often help reduce the severity of pain and the length of time the pain is present. Home treatment may also relieve other symptoms, such as fever, nausea or vomiting, anxiety, or muscle aches. Start home treatment as soon as you can. Be sure to review the home treatment information for any other symptoms you may have.
If your doctor has prescribed a specific treatment for your headaches, begin treatment as soon as a headache starts. Be sure to follow his or her instructions when taking any prescription medicine for your headache.
For mild pain without other symptoms, try the following:
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
You may be able to reduce the frequency and severity of your headaches by trying:
When your child has headaches:
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your child's headache:
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen to treat a fever. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
You may be able to prevent headaches by changing your daily routine. Identify possible causes of your headaches using a headache diary .
Headaches can often be prevented by avoiding things that may cause, or "trigger," the pain. Although these triggers may be different for different people, generally avoid:
To prevent a child's headache:
To prepare for your appointment, see the topicMaking the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions. When you go to your appointment, be sure to bring your headache diary .
Current as of:
July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.