Introduction

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

Get advice from NHS Direct Wales on 0845 46 47 or 111 Wales if:

  • 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.

They will tell you what to do.

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

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
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Selected links

NHS Direct Wales links

Migraine

Cluster headaches

Tension headaches

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The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS Choices.
Last Updated: 01/10/2019 09:41:07