Most headaches are minor, and you can treat them with a pain reliever. Some head pain, however, signals a dangerous or serious medical problem. Don't ignore unexplained head pain or head pain that steadily worsens.
Get immediate medical attention if your head pain:
- Develops suddenly and severely
- Accompanies a fever; stiff neck; rash; mental confusion; loss of consciousness; seizures; changes in vision, such as blurring or seeing halos around lights; dizziness; weakness or paralysis, such as in the arms or legs; loss of balance; a reddened eye; numbness; or difficulty speaking
- Is severe and follows a recent sore throat or respiratory infection
- Begins or worsens after a head injury, fall or bump
- Is a different type of headache from your usual and you're older than 50
- Progressively worsens over the course of a single day or persists for several days
- Headache. American College of Emergency Physicians. http://www.emergencycareforyou.org/EmergencyManual/WhatToDoInMedicalEmergency/Default.aspx?id=248. Accessed Sept. 14, 2011.
- Approach to the patient with headache. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic_disorders/headache/approach_to_the_patient_with_headache.html?qt=headache&alt=sh. Accessed Sept. 14, 2011.
- Tobleman R, et al. Headache. In: Stone CK, et al. Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Emergency Medicine. 6th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2008. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=3100688&searchStr=headache#3100688. Accessed Sept. 14, 2011.