Overview

Most headaches will go away on their own and are not 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
  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen

Don't:

  • do not drink alcohol
  • do not skip meals (even if you might not feel like eating anything)
  • do not sleep more than you usually would - it can make the headache worse
  • do not 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

Get an urgent GP appointment or call NHS 111 Wales (if available in your area) or 0845 46 47 if:

You or your child has a severe headache and:

  • jaw pain when eating
  • blurred or double vision
  • a sore scalp
  • other symptoms, such as numbness or weakness in the arms or legs

Also get an urgent GP appointment or call NHS 111 Wales if your child is under 12 and has any 1 of the following:

  • a headache that wakes them at night
  • a headache when they wake up in the morning
  • a headache that gets progressively worse
  • a headache triggered or made worse by coughing, sneezing or bending down
  • a headache with vomiting
  • a headache with a squint (where the eyes point in different directions) or an inability to look upward

Call 999 or go to A&E if you or your child:

  • has a head injury – for example, from a fall or accident
  • has a headache that came on suddenly and is extremely painful

You or your child has an extremely painful headache and:

  • sudden problems speaking or remembering things
  • loss of vision
  • feel drowsy or confused
  • has a very high temperature and symptoms of meningitis
  • the white part of the eye is red

Also call 999 or go to A&E if your child is under 12 and has any 1 of the following:

  • a headache with vision problems or difficulty speaking, swallowing, balancing or walking
  • a headache with drowsiness or a persistent lack of energy
  • a headache that starts within 5 days of a head injury

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


The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website nhs.uk
Last Updated: 18/10/2021 12:08:09