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Headache

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Learn more about headache: overview

Most headaches will go away on their own and aren't a sign of something more serious.

How you can ease headaches yourself

Headaches can last between 30 minutes and several hours.

Do

  • drink plenty of water
  • get plenty of rest if you have a cold or the flu
  • try to relax - stress can make headaches worse
  • exercise when you can
  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen

Don't

  • drink alcohol
  • skip meals (even if you might not feel like eating anything)
  • sleep more than you usually would - it can make the headache worse
  • strain your eyes for a long time - for example, by looking at a screen

See a GP if:

  • your headache keeps coming back
  • painkillers don't help and your headache gets worse
  • you have a bad throbbing pain at the front or side of your head - this could be a migraine or, more rarely, a cluster headache
  • you feel sick, vomit and find light or noise painful
  • you get other symptoms - for example, your arms or legs feel numb or weak

What can cause headaches

The most common reasons are:

  • having a cold or the flu
  • stress
  • drinking too much alcohol
  • bad posture
  • eyesight problems
  • not eating regular meals
  • not drinking enough fluids (dehydration)
  • taking too many painkillers
  • women having their period or menopause

See a GP urgently if you have a severe headache and:

  • your jaw hurts when eating
  • blurred or double vision
  • your scalp feels sore

These could be signs that the arteries in your head and neck are inflamed. This needs urgent treatment.

Call 999 or go to A&E if:

  • you injured your head badly - for example, from a fall or accident
  • the headache came on suddenly and is extremely painful

You have an extremely painful headache and:

  • sudden problems speaking or remembering things
  • loss of vision
  • you're feeling drowsy or confused
  • you have a very high temperature, feel hot and shivery, and have a stiff neck or a rash
  • the white part of your eye is red
Content supplied by NHS Choices