- Pain or
discomfort of the scalp or forehead areas
- The face and ears are excluded
the course of a year, the majority of adults suffer headaches.
Muscle Tension Headaches: The majority of headaches are caused by
muscle tension. The discomfort is usually diffuse and may radiate down
into the neck and shoulders. The discomfort is aggravated by emotional
Migraine Headaches: Also referred to as vascular headaches.
The headache is moderate to severe in intensity, described as throbbing or pulsing
in nature, and usually unilateral. Associated symptoms include nausea and vomiting.
Some individuals will have visual warning symptoms (aura) that a migraine is
Sinusitis: Headaches occur with sinusitis. The headache is usually
located in the forehead area and the individual has associated sinus symptoms
(nasal discharge, congestion).
Fever: A mild to moderate headache frequently accompanies the fever
that occurs with common viral infections such as the flu and the common
cold. A severe headache that persists after the fever has come down to
normal is a red flag that something more serious may be causing the
Caffeine Withdrawal: This occurs in individuals who drink large
amounts of caffeine (e.g. coffee, tea, colas) and suddenly stop. Some caffeine
drinkers will note a headache upon arising that goes away after their first
cup of coffee.
Some Serious Causes of Headache
- Meningitis, encephalitis
- Temporal arteritis
- Brain tumor
- Carbon monoxide exposure
See More Appropriate Topic (instead of this one) If
WHEN TO CALL YOUR DOCTOR FOR HEADACHE
Call 911 Now (you may need an ambulance) If:
to awaken or acting confused
- New onset of weakness of the face, arm or leg on one side of
- New onset of numbness of the face, arm or leg on one side of
- New onset of slurred speech, garbled speech, or inability to
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If:
- You feel weak
or very sick
- Pain is severe and its the worst headache of your life
- Pain is severe and you have not had severe headaches before
- Stiff neck (can't touch chin to chest)
- Blurred or double vision
- Unsteady walking
- Fever of 103 F (39.4 C) or higher
- Fever of 100.5 F (38.1 C) or higher and you:
- Are over 60 years of age
- Have diabetes mellitus or a weakened immune
system (e.g. HIV positive, cancer chemotherapy, chronic steroid
- Are bedridden (e.g. nursing home patient,
stroke, chronic illness, recovering from surgery)
- Possible exposure to carbon monoxide
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am
and 4 pm) If:
- You think
you need to be seen
- Sinus pain or pressure of forehead with nasal symptoms (discharge,
- Age greater than 50
- Weakened immune system (e.g. HIV positive, cancer chemotherapy,
chronic steroid treatment, splenectomy)
- Fever lasts longer than 3 days (72 hours)
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If:
- You have
other questions or concerns
- Headache present longer than 24 hours
- Headaches are a recurrent problem
Self Care at Home If:
- Mild headache
and you don't think you need to be seen
HOME CARE ADVICE FOR HEADACHE
- Pain Medication: For
pain relief, take acetaminophen every 4-6 hours (e.g. Tylenol; adult dosage
650 mg) OR ibuprofen every 6-8 hours (e.g. Advil, Motrin; adult dosage 400 mg).
- Do not take ibuprofen if you have stomach problems, kidney disease,
are pregnant, or have been told by your doctor to avoid this type of anti-inflammatory
drug. Do not take ibuprofen for more than 7 days without consulting your doctor.
- Do not take acetaminophen if you have liver disease.
- Read the package instructions thoroughly on all medications
that you take.
Migraine Medication: If your doctor has prescribed specific
medication for your migraine, take it as directed as soon as the migraine starts.
Rest: Lie down in a dark quiet place and try to relax. Close your
eyes and imagine your entire body relaxing.
Local Cold: Apply a cold wet washcloth or cold pack to the forehead
for 20 minutes.
Stretching: Stretch and massage any tight neck muscles.
- Call Your Doctor If:
- Headache last longer than 24 hours
- You become worse or develop any of the "Call Your Doctor"
This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical
advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full
responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Adult HouseCalls Online. Copyright © 2000-2004
David Thompson, M.D. FACEP
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