When to see a Doctor about your Headache

Do you have a headache?
You are not alone. Most everyone suffers from one at one point. Most of the time, symptoms can be alleviated at home. Sometimes, the pain requires specialized treatment or emergency care. Migraine headaches can last a day or more and can strike as often as several times a week or as rarely as once every few years. Keep in mind there are preventive behavioral steps and medicines that can help manage headaches.

human brain and eye in an abstract neurological background

Get Emergency Care*
You may require emergency care if your headache:

  • Is severe, comes on abruptly or wakes you up at night
  • Is the worst headache you’ve ever had?
  • Is accompanied by:

Stiff neck; dizziness, loss of balance; confusion; tingling; paralysis; slurred speech; personality changes; seizures; vision changes; nausea or vomiting; pain in the eye, ear or near the temples; loss of consciousness

  • Occurs after a head or neck injury
  • Is too severe to move your head

Schedule an Appointment**

  • Becoming more frequent
  • Becoming more severe or are debilitating
  • Interfering with your ability to do your job
  • Keeping you from participating in everyday activities
  • Not improving with over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Worse when you cough or move
  • Cause you to take over-the-counter pain relievers several times a week

Try a Home Remedy
For the occasional, minor headache, try these at home remedies:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen
  • Eat healthy, balanced meals that are low in sugar, salt and caffeine
  • Put an ice pack on your forehead or back of the neck
  • Place a warm washcloth over your eyes
  • Take a walk or light jog
  • Try relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga
  • Get a gentle massage along the neck or scalp

Reference: * National institutes of Health: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/headache/headache.htm
** NIH News in Health: http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/mar2014/feature2