About all

What to do if you have bad headache: The request could not be satisfied


7 Signs of a Dangerous Headache


  • Headaches affect almost half of us in the course of a year.
  • The good news is that 90 percent of headaches are “benign.” That means they aren’t harmful or dangerous to you.
  • The bad news is that 10 percent of headaches are a sign of a serious condition which requires an emergency evaluation.

There’s a good chance that sometime during the year you’ll have a headache. Headaches happen to almost half of us in any given year. The good news is most headaches are not harmful or dangerous. But, about 10 percent of headaches are a sign of a serious health condition and require an emergency evaluation. So, how can you tell the difference between an ordinary headache and one that’s dangerous? It’s not easy.

Causes of serious headaches

Almost all types of headaches activate the same kind of pain receptors. That can make it difficult for you to know whether your headache pain is a sign of a serious condition or not. The most serious causes of headache pain include:

  • hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke happens when a blood vessel in your brain breaks and bleeds.
  • aneurysm. A bulge or ballooning blood vessel in the brain.
  • meningitis. A bacterial or viral infection that causes swelling in the protective lining of your brain.
  • brain tumor. A “primary” brain tumor begins in the brain and can be cancerous or noncancerous.

When to seek emergency care for a headache

If you develop a headache with no history of a similar headache, here are seven signs that it could be dangerous and require an emergency evaluation:

  • It comes on suddenly (less than five minutes to maximum pain).
  • It is the worst headache of your life.
  • You take a blood thinner.
  • You have problems with your immune system, such as diabetes or HIV, or being treated with steroids or chemotherapy.
  • You have arm or leg numbness or weakness, slurred speech, seizures or other neurological symptoms.
  • You have pain in the back of your head or pain that travels down your neck.
  • You are older than 50.

Need emergency care? Find an emergency room near you and check wait times.

We often can rule out serious conditions without extensive tests. A CT scan or spinal tap may be necessary depending on your symptoms and medical history.

If you have any cause for concern about a headache, it is best to get evaluated.



When it comes to signs of a stroke BE FAST

Posted November 24, 2020

Continue reading

When to See a Doctor for Headache or Migraine

When to call a neurologist for migraine

If you have severe headaches or accompanying symptoms that are disrupting your life, it might be a good idea to see a neurologist. Consider making an appointment with a neurologist if:

  • Your headache is continuous for more than a day or two
  • Your headaches tend to come on suddenly
  • Your head pain is worsened by straining
  • Your headaches start early in the morning
  • You’re experiencing changes in vision
  • You’ve had a seizure along with your headaches

Tests your doctor may perform for headaches

When you see a neurologist for a headache, he or she will likely take a medical history, perform a physical exam, and do some neurological tests.
The tests will vary depending upon your symptoms and may include:

  • CT scan: Your doctor may order a CT scan of your head to help diagnose any structural problems, bleeding,
    spinal problems, or tumors that could be causing your headaches.
  • MRI: An MRI may be done if you have had a recent head injury that could be causing your headaches or if your doctor suspects
    a structural problem or tumor.
  • EEG: EEG is short for electroencephalogram, which is a test that measures brain waves. It uses
    electrodes placed on the scalp to measure brain activity. It is helpful in diagnosing epilepsy and other brain disorders, such as stroke, inflammation, brain damage from a head injury, sleep disorders, and brain dysfunction.
  • Eye exams: A neurologist may perform eye exams to check for signs of a concussion or neurological damage that could be causing your headaches.
  • Spinal tap: A spinal tap is also known as a lumbar puncture or CSF test. During this test, doctors remove a small sample of spinal fluid to assess the color, consistency, and quality of the spinal fluid. This test can help doctors
    find out where there is an infection or tumor of it the patient has a disorder, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome.
  • X-ray of your sinuses: If your doctor suspects you have a sinus infection or chronic sinus problems may be causing your headaches, he or she may order x-rays of your sinuses. 
  • Lab tests: Depending on your headaches and other related symptoms, your doctor may order some lab tests, like blood tests or a urinalysis. Usually these tests are done to confirm or rule out health conditions, such as thyroid disease
    or diabetes, that could be contributing to your headaches.

While your doctor may be able to determine the cause of your headaches, a neurologist has the tools and tests available to diagnose and treat whatever the root cause is.

Headache treatment at Beaumont

If you are suffering from frequent or extreme headaches or your headaches are accompanied by other symptoms, doctors at Beaumont can help. Beaumont neurologists use the latest tools to diagnose and treat neurological conditions, for patients of all ages. From acute brain injuries to chronic conditions, we are the most preferred destination for neurology services in Southeast Michigan.

Specialized centers for neurological care

Beaumont Health’s specialized neurology centers connect you with the specialists you need, in one place, at one time –
whether you need a neurological exam or more specialized services.

Call 800-633-7377 today to make an appointment to see a Beaumont neurologist.

Tension Headaches | HealthLink BC

Topic Overview

Is this topic for you?

This topic is about tension headaches in adults. If you are looking for information about migraine headaches, see Migraine Headaches.

What is a tension headache?

Most headaches are tension headaches. These headaches tend to happen again and again, especially if you are under stress. They are not usually a sign of something serious. But they can be very painful and hard to live with.

Tension headaches can last from 30 minutes to 7 days.

If you have a headache on 15 or more days each month over a 3-month period, you may have chronic tension headaches. This type of headache can lead to stress and depression, which in turn can lead to more headaches.

Tension headaches are very common. Symptoms can start in childhood, but they are more likely to occur during middle age.

Some people have both tension headaches and migraine headaches.

What causes tension headaches?

Doctors don’t know for sure what causes tension headaches. Experts once thought that tension or spasms in the muscles of the neck, face, and head played a role. Now they think that a change in brain chemicals also may be a cause.

Tension headaches are one of the most common types of headaches. They can be brought on—or triggered—by things such as stress, depression, hunger, and muscle strain. Tension headaches may come on suddenly or slowly.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of tension headaches include:

  • A headache that is constant, not throbbing. You usually feel the pain or pressure on both sides of your head.
  • Pressure that makes you feel like your head is in a vise.
  • Aching pain at your temples or the back of your head and neck.

This is different than migraine headaches, which usually cause throbbing pain and start on one side of your head.

Tension headaches tend to come back, especially when you are under stress.

Pain from a tension headache is usually not severe and does not get in the way of your work or social life. But for some people, the pain is very bad or lasts a long time.

How are tension headaches diagnosed?

A doctor can usually diagnose tension headaches by asking you questions about your health and lifestyle and by examining you.

How are they treated?

Most people can treat their tension headaches with over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or aspirin.

But if you take these pain relievers more than 3 times a week, you may get rebound headaches. These are different from tension headaches. Rebound headaches usually start after pain medicine has worn off, which leads you to take another dose. After a while, you get a headache whenever you stop taking the medicine.

Your doctor may prescribe medicine if you get chronic tension headaches.

Can you prevent tension headaches?

Even with treatment, most people still have some headaches. But with treatment, you will probably have them less often. And when you do get them, they probably won’t be as bad.

Home treatment may help you avoid headaches. You can:

  • Try to reduce stress.
  • Make sure you sleep, exercise, and eat on a regular schedule.
  • Make sure you practice good posture. Stand and sit up straight.
  • Try not to strain your eyes when you use your computer.
  • Get treatment for depression or anxiety if you have those health problems.
  • Try using a headache diary. Every time you get a headache, write down the date, the time, and what you were doing and feeling before your headache started. This may help you and your doctor find out what is causing your headaches. Then your doctor can use the diary to plan your treatment.


The cause of tension headaches is not clear. In the past, doctors believed that tension or spasms of the muscles of the neck, face, jaw, head, or scalp played a role in causing these headaches. Now they think a change in brain chemistry may also help cause a tension headache.

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. They can be brought on—or triggered—by things such as stress, depression, hunger, and muscle strain. Tension headaches may come on suddenly or slowly.

Chronic tension headaches often occur along with other health problems such as anxiety or depression.


Symptoms of tension headaches include:

  • A constant headache that does not throb or pulse. You usually feel the pain or pressure on both sides of your head.
  • Tightness around your forehead that may feel like a “vise grip.”
  • Aching pain at your temples or the back of your head and neck.

Unlike migraines, tension headaches usually don’t occur with nausea, vomiting, or feeling sensitive to both light and noise. But light or noise could make your headache worse. Tension headaches usually aren’t bad enough to keep you from doing your daily activities.

Tension headaches can last from 30 minutes to 7 days.

If you have a headache on 15 or more days each month over a 3-month period, you may have chronic tension headaches.

When to Call a Doctor

or other emergency services if:

  • You have symptoms of a stroke, such as:
    • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
    • Sudden vision changes.
    • Sudden trouble speaking.
    • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
    • Sudden problems with walking or balance.
    • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.

Call your doctor now or go to the emergency room if:

  • You have a fever and a stiff neck.
  • You have new nausea and vomiting, or you cannot keep food or liquids down.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your headache wakes you up at night.
  • Your headaches get worse or happen more often.
  • You start to have new symptoms.
  • You have any problems with your medicine.
  • Your headaches occur after physical exercise, sexual activity, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Your life is disrupted by your headaches (for example, you miss work or school regularly).

Watchful waiting

Watchful waiting is a wait-and-see approach. If your headache gets better on its own, you won’t need treatment. If it gets worse or you get headaches often, you and your doctor will decide what to do next.

Watchful waiting and using over-the-counter pain medicines work well if your tension headaches don’t keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if your headaches are disrupting your life, talk to your doctor about other treatments that you could try.

Who to see

Your family doctor or general practitioner can recognize and treat tension headaches. If your headaches are severe or do not get better with treatment, you may be referred to a specialist, such as a neurologist.

If you think that your headaches are caused by depression or anxiety, talk to your doctor. Treating these problems may help reduce how bad your headaches are and how often you get them.

Examinations and Tests

Finding out the type of headache you have

A doctor can usually diagnose tension headaches by asking you questions about your health and lifestyle and by examining you.

It can be hard to know which type of headache you have, because different types can have the same symptoms. But the treatments may be different, so it’s important to find out which type you have.

Finding other possible causes

In very rare cases, headaches can be caused by more serious health problems (such as brain tumours or aneurysms). But most headaches aren’t caused by anything serious, so you probably won’t need to have tests.

Treatment Overview

You can treat most tension headaches with:

  • Over-the-counter pain medicines.
  • Prescription drugs if you have chronic or very bad headaches.
  • Avoiding things that trigger your headaches.
  • Meditation and other ways to lower your stress.

Over-the-counter medicines to stop headaches

Medicines can help you feel better. But they can also be dangerous, especially if you don’t take them the right way. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

  • Try these drugs first. Most doctors recommend that you try over-the-counter drugs first if you have mild to moderate headaches. They may have fewer side effects than prescription drugs. These medicines include:

    • Acetaminophen, such as Tylenol.
    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen (for example, Motrin).
    • Medicine that combines aspirin, acetaminophen, and caffeine, such as Excedrin.
  • Don’t take this medicine too often. Try not to take over-the-counter drugs more than 3 times a week, because you may get rebound headaches. These are different from tension headaches. They are usually triggered after pain medicine has worn off, prompting you to take another dose. After a while, you get a headache whenever you stop taking the medicine.

Prescription medicines to prevent headaches

Your doctor may recommend that you take a prescription medicine every day to prevent headaches. You may want to try a prescription medicine to prevent a headache if:

  • You are using over-the-counter medicines to stop headaches more than 3 times a week.
  • Over-the-counter medicines to stop headaches aren’t working well for you.

Your doctor may have you try one or more medicines, such as an antidepressant or a medicine that prevents seizures. These medicines can help prevent headaches even if you don’t have depression or seizures.

Avoiding triggers

You may be able to prevent or reduce tension headaches by learning what causes your headaches and trying to avoid those triggers. For more information, see Living With Tension Headaches.

Reducing stress

How you think can affect how you feel. So finding ways to relax and stop negative thoughts may help prevent headaches.

You may want to try:

  • Techniques to stop negative thoughts.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Ways to manage your time.
  • Breathing exercises.
  • Guided imagery.
  • Meditation.
  • Yoga.

For more information, see Living With Tension Headaches.

Treatment if headaches get worse

If you continue to have tension headaches while you are getting treatment, you and your doctor may want to try another treatment.

You may have to try different drugs or doses. If you have already tried several medicines, your doctor may order tests (such as an MRI or CT scan) to find out if a health problem is causing your headaches.

Other things to think about

  • Even with treatment, you will most likely still get some tension headaches. But you probably will get them less often. And they may hurt less when you do get them.
  • If you also have depression or anxiety, talk to your doctor. Treatment for these health problems also may help you have fewer headaches.


Finding and avoiding the things—or triggers—that lead to tension headaches can reduce how often you get headaches and how bad they are when you do get them.

Headache triggers can include:

  • Stress.
  • Anxiety.
  • Fatigue.
  • Hunger.

Using a headache diary can help you find your triggers. You write down when you have a headache and how bad it is, along with details such as what you ate and what you were doing before the headache started. This information can help you avoid things that bring on your headaches. And the diary also can help your doctor plan your treatment.

If you have headaches caused by muscle tension in your neck, shoulders, and upper back, pay attention to your posture during your daily activities. You also can try muscle relaxation and other ways to reduce muscle tension.

Your doctor also may prescribe medicine to help prevent tension headaches.

Living With Tension Headaches

You may have fewer headaches—and less pain when you do get them—if you:

  • Find and avoid triggers for your headaches.
  • Keep a headache diary to find out what triggers your headaches.
  • Take over-the-counter drugs to stop a headache.
  • Take medicine as your doctor advises to stop or prevent a headache.
  • Reduce stress with relaxation and positive-thinking methods.

Find and avoid triggers

You can reduce how many headaches you have by finding out what triggers them and avoiding those things. Triggers may include stress, hunger, and lack of sleep.

Use a headache diary

Use a headache diary to find your triggers. You write down when you have a headache and how bad it is, along with details such as what you ate and what you were doing when the headache started. This information can help you avoid things that bring on your headaches. A diary also may help your doctor plan your treatment.

Take medicines as your doctor advises

If you have mild to moderate headaches, your doctor probably will want you to take over-the-counter medicines to stop your headaches. These include medicines like acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) and ibuprofen (such as Motrin). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

If over-the-counter medicines don’t stop your headaches well enough—or you get a lot of headaches—your doctor may prescribe medicine to prevent headaches.

Don’t take medicine too often. Talk to your doctor if you’re taking medicine more than 3 days a week to stop a headache, or if you have a headache on more than 15 days a month. Taking too much over-the-counter pain medicine can lead to more headaches. These are called rebound headaches.

Reduce stress

One Man’s Story:

Jerry, 32

“I hold my stress in my shoulders and neck. My shoulders are always up around my ears. A lot of times, I leave at the end of the day with a big headache.”—Jerry

Read more about how Jerry reduced his stress.

Stress can cause tension headaches.

You can lower your stress with positive thinking and relaxation methods. Research shows that you can change how you think. And how you think affects how you feel. Try these techniques on your own or with help from a therapist or counsellor trained in muscle relaxation, meditation, biofeedback, or cognitive-behavioural therapy.

Learn how to lower your stress with these topics:

You also can learn to stop thinking all the time about things that bother you.

Seek help if you think that your tension headaches may be linked to depression or anxiety. Treating these health problems can reduce how often you get headaches.


Your doctor may recommend medicine to treat or prevent tension headaches.

You might only need to take an over-the-counter medicine for pain. These medicines usually have fewer side effects than prescription drugs. Always be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

Over-the-counter drugs to stop headaches

Over-the-counter medicines that you can use to stop a headache include:

  • Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol).
  • Aspirin.
  • Ibuprofen (such as Advil).
  • Naproxen (such as Aleve).
  • Medicine that combines aspirin, acetaminophen, and caffeine (such as Excedrin).

Try to avoid taking over-the-counter drugs more than 3 times a week, because you may get rebound headaches. These are different from tension headaches. They usually occur after headache medicine has worn off. This leads you to take another dose. After a while, you get a headache whenever you stop taking the medicine.

Prescription drugs to prevent headaches

Your doctor may recommend that you take a prescription medicine every day to prevent headaches. You may want to take this medicine if:

  • Over-the-counter medicines don’t work to stop your headaches.
  • You’re taking over-the-counter medicines to stop headaches more than 3 times a week.
  • You get a headache more than 15 days a month.

Medicines used to prevent tension headaches include:

  • Antidepressants, such as amitriptyline.
  • Seizure medicines, such as topiramate.
  • Medicines that relax muscles, such as tizanidine.
  • Antianxiety medicines, such as buspirone.

Botulinum toxin type A (BTX-A) is sometimes injected into the muscles in the face and head to treat headaches. In the past, doctors thought that spasms caused tension headaches. But BTX-A injections do not seem to help with symptoms of tension headaches.footnote 1 And BTX-A may cause weakness of the facial muscles and may make it hard for you to swallow.

What to think about

  • The type of tension headache you have may help your doctor decide which drug to prescribe.
  • There are other things you can try besides daily medicine. For example, you could use cognitive-behavioural therapy or biofeedback.
  • The medicine that you take may cause side effects. Some side effects may last for a few weeks or for as long as you take the medicine.
  • You may have to try several different drugs or types of drugs before you find the one that is right for you. Make sure to tell your doctor how well a drug stops your headaches.
  • Certain pain medicines can cause a bad reaction if you take them with other medicines. Before you begin taking pain medicines, be sure to let your doctor know about all of the drugs you take. This includes over-the-counter medicines and complementary treatments (such as herbs).

Other Treatment

Using other treatments along with medicines may help you stop a tension headache or prevent one.

If you decide to try one or more of these treatments, make sure your doctor knows. He or she may have advice on how to use other treatments safely. Other treatments for headaches include:



  1. Jackson JL, et al. (2012). Botulinum toxin A for prophylactic treatment of migraine and tension headaches in adults: A meta-analysis. JAMA, 307(6): 1736–1745. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2012.505. Accessed February 1, 2016.


Current as of:
November 20, 2019

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Kathleen Romito MD – Family Medicine
Anne C. Poinier MD – Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD – Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD – Internal Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD – Family Medicine
Karin M. Lindholm DO – Neurology

Bad Headache and Nausea Symptoms

6. Your headache started after you hit your head. Even if it was a moderate bump and you didn’t black out, you should get to the ER because your head pain may stem from a concussion. Although most such injuries are not serious, concussions with bruising or bleeding on the brain can lead to vision loss, balancing problems, confusion and even death.

7. Your head pain comes on repeatedly, in severe, sudden flashes, when you cough, sneeze, bend down, or strain during a bowel movement or sex. This may be a sign of a worrisome condition such as vascular disease of the head or neck, an aneurysm or tumor, or other structural problems in the brain.

8. You have cancer or HIV/AIDS and develop a new headache. Any new headache in a patient with HIV/AIDS could mean a brain infection such as meningitis, which should be evaluated promptly by a doctor. A new headache in a cancer patient doesn’t necessarily demand a trip to the ER but should be seen promptly by the patient’s own doctor. Shingles (herpes zoster) around the eye or forehead can cause permanent damage to eye and vision loss.

9. You have a severe headache plus pain and tenderness on your scalp, temples and jaw. This could a sign of temporal arteritis, an inflammation of the arteries that occurs almost exclusively in older adults. Believed to be an autoimmune condition, temporal arteritis must be treated as soon as possible with steroids to avoid permanent loss of vision.

10. You have a sudden, severe headache and redness in one eye. A headache and a painful, red eye can be caused by a number of conditions that are not life-threatening, including corneal injury and eye inflammation. However, one form of acute glaucoma, involving rapid buildup of pressure on the optic nerve, can occur suddenly with these same symptoms. Left untreated, it can lead to irreversible vision loss. So just in case, you must get to an ER.

Headache: Could It Be a Brain Tumor?

A bad headache can be scary. It’s hard not to think the worst if you’re unlucky enough to suffer with severe headaches. If the pain lasts or recurs, you may wonder if you have a serious problem such as a brain tumor.

Here’s the reassuring truth: Headache, by itself, is rarely caused by a tumor.

According to a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins’ Comprehensive Brain Tumor Center, the chance that your headache is a sign of a brain tumor is very remote.

Headaches are a common occurrence among the general population, but the vast majority of them have nothing to do with cancer.

However, experts recommend that if you experience a new headache, or the pattern changes or becomes more frequent, that is a good reason to visit your primary care doctor to rule out any serious problems.

Brain Cancer Facts

  • The most common age range for brain tumors in adults is 40 to 60 years
  • Tumors that start in the brain (primary brain tumors) are far less
    common than tumors that spread to the brain from other areas
    (metastatic brain tumors).
  • Some brain tumors do not cause headaches at all, since the brain itself
    isn’t capable of sensing pain. Only when a tumor is large enough to
    press on nerves or vessels do they cause headache.

So if a headache is your main complaint and the pattern is staying fairly
consistent, chances are you have one of many conditions such as


tension headache,

cluster headache

or other variety. These headaches can be fiercely painful and disruptive
but not life-threatening.

Visit your doctor for new or different headache

If you go to the doctor for headache, he or she will ask you about any
recent neurological “red flags” that can signal a serious condition, such

  • Seizures
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness
  • Swelling of the eye or vision problems
  • Weakness or paralysis, especially on one side of the body
  • Speech impairment
  • Personality change

Rest assured

In the absence of these red flags, your doctor will work with you to manage
the pain of your headache with medication, diet and lifestyle changes, or a
combination of therapies. In most cases


CAT scans

and other diagnostic tests are neither necessary nor even advisable, since
they say very little about what’s causing a headache.

Headaches hurt, but there are many approaches that can make them more
manageable. And just knowing it’s not likely to be cancer will likely bring
you a measure of relief.

Headache | Your COVID Recovery

Can COVID cause headaches?

Many studies have shown that COVID may cause headaches. Some people even get a headache before they notice any breathing problems. It is a common symptom of COVID.


What causes COVID headaches?

Headaches are often a feature of other viral infections, but for most people the presence of a headache does not always mean that the virus is still present in the body.

Migraine is a very common type of headache and causes a nasty pain in the head. This can sometimes be accompanied with other symptoms such as sensitivity to light, an upset stomach, loss of appetite and you may even feel sick or vomit. Viral infections can make existing migraines worse; attacks may be more frequent or the pain may last longer than usual. People who suffer from migraines are more likely to have headaches following a viral infection. Long COVID headaches may be more frequent in those patients who have a history of headaches.

COVID can also cause a new persistent headache that has not been experienced prior to your COVID illness, but which lasts for some time afterwards, and can be felt on a daily basis.

Stress is a very common trigger for COVID headaches.


How long will my headache last?

Most patients with COVID report that their headache improves within 2 weeks. However, for some, it may last for a few weeks longer.


What can I do for my headaches?

If you have suffered from headaches before, the best option is to stick to your previous treatments.

If you have identified triggers that start the headaches, try to avoid them as this may reduce them occurring by a half. Try to avoid alcohol. Drinking alcohol can make headaches worse.

Regular sleep, reducing stress and routine eating times are important for migraine management. These activities may be beneficial for people suffering COVID headaches. Relaxation techniques can be helpful when you have muscle tension in the neck and shoulders.

Taking painkillers for headaches is an option but ideally should be limited to less than three days a week. It is important not to take regular daily painkillers as they themselves can be the cause of headaches (medication overuse headache).

If painkillers cannot be avoided then paracetamol and ibuprofen are the best. If the headache is exceptionally bad, then it could be a migraine. Check with your GP or your pharmacist to find the right medicine for you.
If you have a daily headache, your GP could prescribe you a preventative medication to take for a few weeks/months.

Kids Health Information : Headaches

A headache is a symptom of pain in the area of the head or neck. Headaches are common in children and adolescents.

Headaches can be caused by many things, including colds, stress, dehydration, lack of sleep or eye problems (e.g. straining to read). Most headaches in children are not due to a serious underlying problem, but they can be upsetting for the child and have an impact on schooling, sport and play

If your child’s headaches are severe and persistent, and cause them to miss school or activities more often than once a month, they should be checked by their GP.

Signs and symptoms of different headaches

Children are affected by many different types of headaches, and they can range in severity from a mild ache to severe pain.

Headaches can be thought of as primary headaches and secondary headaches.

Some primary headaches and their symptoms are:

  • Tension headache – feels like a tight band around the head. A tension headache is usually a dull, steady ache felt on both sides of the head, but may be felt at the front and back of the head.
  • Migraine headaches – often described as a throbbing feeling, which may be on one side of the head. Migraines are sometimes accompanied by symptoms of dizziness, nausea, vomiting and visual disturbances. See our fact sheet
    Migraine headaches.

Other primary headache disorders are less common, and can be associated with sudden, one sided, facial pain, and nasal congestion or lots of tears (tears without actually crying).

Secondary headaches are due to an identifiable underlying cause, commonly a mild illness (e.g. a viral infection) or dehydration.

What causes headaches?

Children and adolescents who experience primary headaches often have other family members who get headaches. Common triggers for headaches in children with migraine or tension headaches are not getting enough sleep or being stressed. In rare cases, exercise can also trigger these types
of headaches.

Common causes of secondary headaches are viral infections such as colds, sinusitis, or ear infections. Rare causes of secondary headaches are tumours or intracranial (inside the skull) bleeding.

Care at home

Treating an occasional headache can be as simple as having something to eat and drink, and a lie down to rest and relax. A cool, wet cloth placed on the forehead may help relieve the headache, and massaging or stretching the head and neck muscles if they are tight or tender may also help.

If these strategies don’t work, it may help to give your child some non-prescription pain medicine, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen (see our fact sheet
Pain relief for children). Follow the instructions on the packet and do not use pain medication for more than two days in a week without advice from your GP. Overuse of pain medication can cause additional problems.

To try to prevent headaches, make sure your child is getting enough sleep and rest, regular exercise and balanced nutrition. Balanced nutrition means your child should eat plenty of vegetables and fruit, lean meats and dairy products, and limit processed foods that are high in fats and

Keeping a headache diary is a good way to try to identify what triggers (causes) your child’s headaches. The diary will also be helpful for your child’s doctor in determining the best way to manage and treat your child’s headaches in the future. If you find there are any specific triggers
that seem to cause your child’s headaches, you can work to avoid them.

The headache diary should include:

  • when the headache started and what seemed to trigger it
  • how long it lasted
  • which part of the head hurt
  • how bad it was on a scale of 1 (mild) to 10 (severe)
  • if anything helped to soothe the headache
  • the time of going to bed the night before
  • if there were any other symptoms with the headache
  • if school was missed because of the headache.

When to see a doctor

Some headaches can be serious, so if you are concerned, see your GP. Your child should see the GP if:

  • the headaches are getting worse
  • they are having a headache more than once a week
  • the headache wakes your child from sleep or the headache is worse in the morning
  • the headache is associated with vision changes, vomiting or high fevers
  • the headaches begin to disrupt your child’s school, home or social life
  • you identify that stress is causing your child’s headaches but cannot manage it without further help. 

For severe, recurrent headaches, your child may be prescribed medication that is stronger than over-the-counter paracetamol or ibuprofen. If the headaches happen a lot, the doctor may suggest a daily prophylactic (preventative) medicine to help prevent the
headaches. In cases where psychological stress is identified as a trigger for headaches, a referral to a child psychologist may be helpful.

Key points to remember

  • Headaches are common in children and generally not serious.
  • They can have an impact on schooling, sport and play activities.
  • Keeping a headache diary can help identify the things that trigger your child’s headaches, so you can try to avoid them.
  • Regular healthy meals, and enough sleep and exercise are important to help prevent headaches.
  • Some headaches can be serious, so see your GP if you are concerned.

For more information

Common questions our doctors are asked

Will my child outgrow his headaches?

This depends on the type of headache your child suffers. Learning what triggers cause your child’s headaches allows you to avoid them in the future, and this usually leads to fewer headaches as your child gets older.

My daughter has just started getting her period. Could her
headaches be hormonal?

Some adolescent girls have migraine headaches around the time of their monthly period. When this occurs, a preventative medicine (prophylaxis) can be used as the headaches have a predictable pattern.

Does my child need a scan?

A scan is necessary for headaches that get worse over a short period of time and do not go away, and are associated with other worrying symptoms, such as drowsiness, severe vomiting or problems with balance or speech. MRI is the preferred scan as there is no radiation risk; however, in
children a general anaesthetic is often needed. A CT scan or head X-ray is not recommended due to the radiation. Typical migraines or tension headaches, where the child is well between the episodes, do not need imaging.   

Does too much screen time lead to more headaches?

Some children and adolescents may get headaches from looking at the bright screens of electronic devices, and some children remain in a poor posture for an extended time while they are on their device, which can lead to headaches. Encourage them to take regular breaks from the screen and turn the brightness
down. Screen time should be limited.  

Developed by The Royal Children’s Hospital Neurology department. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.

Reviewed May 2018.

Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit


90,000 The head hurts from the fact that “intracranial pressure has increased.” Is it so?

“Nauseous, the pain bursts my head, it seems to be about to explode. I go online, enter the symptoms, read: the pressure inside the skull has increased. What should I do now? ”
Sound familiar? Many of our patients follow this path.

How things really are with intracranial pressure (ICP) – a neurologist, candidate of medical sciences, head of our clinic Kirill Skorobogatykh will help you figure it out.

Conditions when intracranial pressure rises are extremely rare. And even if you feel that the pain is expanding your head from the inside, this has nothing to do with the pressure inside the head.

A true increase in ICP has its own special characteristics. The head hurts every day, the pain is bursting, provoked by coughing, sneezing and lying down. Vision also suffers and the cause – edema in the fundus – can be detected by an ophthalmologist.

Why is the pressure rising? This is due to masses (tumors, large aneurysms), but they are extremely rare and can be quickly ruled out with an MRI scan.An even rarer cause of increased ICP is the disease “idiopathic intracranial hypertension.” With him, there are no neoplasms on the MRI, but the pressure is really increased. Vision changes very quickly with this disease: the image becomes indistinct at the edges, flashes appear in front of the eyes. The disease is extremely rare, even in our specialized headache clinic, such patients come only 1-2 times a year.

How to understand that ICP is increased? If there are signs described above, an MRI scan is done to exclude neoplasms, and an examination of the fundus.If everything is OK on MRI and on the fundus, then an increase in intracranial pressure is extremely unlikely and you need to look for another cause of pain. According to statistics, in the vast majority of cases, the head hurts due to migraines or tension headaches.

Subscribe to our Instagram to read fresh materials on the diagnosis and treatment of headaches!

90,000 Why does a child have a headache

Headache in children is one of the most common complaints when visiting a pediatrician.If it is not so common in preschoolers, then by the age of 12-15 more than half of children and adolescents periodically experience headaches. In some cases, parents recall that long before the start of kindergarten, the child periodically became restless and held his head with his hands.

Causes of headaches in children

Doctors divide headaches into primary and secondary . Primary diseases are independent diseases. In childhood, it is mainly migraine and tension headache.With secondary (cephalalgia) – this is only one of the symptoms of another disease. More than 150 diseases are known that are associated with complaints of headache.

At the heart of the causes of headache is always a violation of the blood supply to the brain. And here’s why this is happening – there can be quite a few answers to this question. For example:

  • Imperfection of the autonomic system of the body,
  • Beginning colds (prodrome),
  • Presence of any serious illness: kidney disease, endocrine disorder, anemia, rheumatism and others;
  • Toothache, which provokes headache;
  • Consequences of head trauma;
  • Excessive nervous tension associated with stress, hours of work, conflict, serious experience, etc.d.
  • The influence of the external environment: prolonged stay in a stuffy room, increased solar radiation, prolonged exposure to the sun, etc.

Headaches can occur as a reaction to changes in the environment or in the body (reactive), wrong lifestyle: when a child has too little or too much sleep, spends too much time in front of a computer or TV screen, is not physically active enough, does not eat properly. After the initial examination of a patient with complaints of headaches, the pediatrician will refer to the necessary consultations and examinations, depending on the violations identified.In most cases, children with complaints of headaches are observed and registered with a neurologist.

Causes of headaches in infants

Infants have a headache due to the process of adaptation to environmental conditions, to a new world. The child’s skull is still delicate, elastic, so adaptation processes can provoke changes in intracranial pressure. Intracranial pressure especially increases if the baby has hydrocephalic syndrome.

The head can hurt in different ways.How to find out the reason depending on complaints

Pain in the occiput. If ​​a child, complaining of a headache, points to the crown and back of the head – most often, we are dealing with a tension headache. Usually it occurs in the afternoon, associated with posture, when the child is already quite tired: during the day he spent a lot of time sitting. Approximately a third of visits to a doctor with a complaint of a headache are due to this type of pain.

Tension headache is associated with overloading of the cervical muscles.Invite your child to stretch their neck and shoulders, do gentle exercises, and lie on the floor to relieve tension from the back and neck.

Pain in the temples. Pain in the temporal region is often indicative of an autonomic disorder. It is worth looking for an individual method here, but most often it helps either to rest in a well-ventilated area, or to take a short walk.

The forehead and the top of the head hurt. Usually this is pain in the first half of the day, and may be caused by increased intracranial pressure.If this pain recurs systematically, you should consult a pediatrician, an ENT doctor and undergo additional examinations.

Half of the head hurts . This seems to be a manifestation of migraine: unfortunately, it can start at an early age. This is a sharp pain that occurs suddenly, at any time for and at night, and intensifies within 10-15 minutes from mild to almost unbearable. In this case, the most important thing is to stop the attack as soon as possible. If the child has already had migraines, it is best to give him the pain reliever as soon as he complains of increasing pain.

Situations when you need to be especially careful

The most alarming symptoms for headache are t nausea, vomiting, photophobia, hyperocusion (when sounds irritate), increased excitability or lethargy . All these are signs of serious disorders, in which you must definitely show your child to a doctor and undergo a series of examinations.

When to call an ambulance

First of all, you need to try to relieve the pain: calm the child, put him to bed, give painkillers, dim the lights and create silence.An ambulance should be called if the attack is very strong and you cannot cope with it – but there is no need to hospitalize the child right at the moment of the attack for no special reason.

If necessary, you can seek advice from the pediatric department of the SKLIF clinic.

The administrator will help you make an appointment with a doctor, select a convenient time and day to visit the clinic + 7 (921) 80-80-219

450106, Ufa, st. Art. Kuvykina, 96.e-mail: [email protected]






Acute dagger pain in the chest , shortness of breath, weakness, sweating, does not pass from nitroglycerin.







6.Breathe deeply and cough violently for 1-2 minutes. A COUGH WILL INCREASE PRESSURE ON THE HEART, IT WILL WORK BETTER.