What is a headache? (click to close)

A headache is a pain in the head which needs diagnosis before being treated and is among the most common medical problems. Around 40% of the population will get at least one headache a year.

What are the causes of headaches? (click to close)

A headache may be caused by:

  • infection
  • glaucoma
  • blood pressure
  • sinus infection
  • over use of headache medication
  • tension and stress
  • too much caffeine or chocolate
  • dehydration

Tension headaches are generally caused by muscle tension around the head, shoulders and neck. They can be caused by stress, fatigue or by being in an uncomfortable body position. Tension headache is generally a pain above the eyes or in the back of the head.

Most headaches are not dangerous. However a headache may be an early warning sign of a brain tumour or haemorrhage so make sure you to talk to your pharmacist to see how your headache can be treated.

What are the symptoms of a migraine headache? (click to close)

Migraine and cluster headaches are different. Initially these can be treated with OTC medicines but they may require medical attention, particularly if severe and if they cause nausea and vomiting. Migraine headaches usually begin suddenly and may also include nausea, vomiting and visual side effects. Migraine headaches can occur frequently and for a long period of time. Patients who suffer regular migraine headaches should see their doctor.

What is the treatment for headaches? (click to close)

For most headaches, your pharmacist can suggest pain relief and maybe some anti-nausea medication or a decongestant. Chronic daily headache can sometimes be associated with overuse of headache medication. The International Headache Society suggests that medicine overuse headache can develop with regular intake of painkillers or with regular intake of painkillers containing codeine. This type of headache often occurs when patients take painkillers to try to prevent a headache, rather than treat an existing headache. The important message is not to take painkillers on a regular basis to prevent headache.

When should you see your doctor about a headache? (click to close)

If the headache involves any of the following then you should seek medical help from your GP immediately.

  • sudden onset of headache and pain
  • dizziness and lack of co-ordination
  • stiff neck
  • delayed mental reactions
  • severe headache
  • first time headache in the under 5s or over 50s
  • any headache that lasts longer than a few hours
  • a change in the pattern of headaches e.g. an increase in frequency of headaches or an increase in the intensity of headaches
  • a headache around the eyes may indicate glaucoma
  • a headache at the side of the eye may be a sign of a sinus infection
  • Any child with a headache should be brought to the doctor immediately
  • Any elderly person who develops a first time headache should be brought to the doctor immediately

Haven Health Tip! (click to close)

  • Regular treatment with painkillers in anticipation of a headache almost always leads to medicine overuse headaches so if in doubt consult your Haven Pharmacist.
Find out more about headaches from your local Haven Pharmacist.