When to Worry About a Headache

Headaches are tricky things. Hard to describe, difficult to quantify, and especially bothersome, they are a challenge for health care providers. The vast majority of headaches are benign. I am not implying they are not very painful, just that they won’t kill you. It is estimated 1 in 20 adults has a headache every day, and the commonality may prevent headache sufferers from seeking medical attention. Unfortunately, there are some causes of headaches that can kill you, or at least become very serious.

When you should worry:

  • It is the worst headache of your life.
  • It wakes you from sleep.
  • It comes on severely and suddenly.
  • It is accompanied by confusion, sharp facial pain, weakness or numbness in the face or in other parts of the body.
  • In addition to a recurring headache, you have systemic symptoms, such as weight loss and/or loss of appetite.
  • The headache is accompanied by fever, a stiff neck and a rash.
  • You are older than 50 and your headaches are new or different
  • Any headache that is getting worse, is different than previous headaches or is lasting for a longer period of time.

Again, most likely you are suffering from a very common type of headache, like a tension headache or a migraine. In these cases, while you don’t have to run to the ER, you can still discuss the pain with your doctor and work on getting some relief. The most important thing with any headache is to pay attention to triggers and try to avoid them. Common ones are lack of sleep, stress, a poor diet, dehydration, and for me, recently and quite sadly, wine. So many of my peers have given up the liquid grape because it affects us differently than it did before. More on this tomorrow.


Find out what the pollen count is today.

Everything You Need to Know About Allergies

Is Healthy Fat…Really Healthy?

Smoky Indian Eggplant–Packed with Vitamin B6 & Thiamin

Shannon’s Tips on How to Avoid Trickle Down Anxiety

5 Foods That Might Make You Sicker

Children & Allergies

Should You Take Probiotics?

Read This Before You Pop a Sleeping Pill

25+ Healthy Toppings for Your Breakfast Bowl

Facebook Twitter Google Digg Reddit LinkedIn Pinterest StumbleUpon Email

Author: Karen Latimer

Dr. Latimer is a Family Physician and Wellness & Parenting Coach. She works with parents who want to feel more confident when helping their children and coaches young adults to help them better navigate college life and transitions. Contact her at drkarenlatimer@gmail.com to learn more. She is the author of two Audible Originals, Take Back the House -- Raising Happy Parents and Worry Less, Parent Better. She is also the co-founder of the app that makes your life easier and puts social in a healthier place -- List'm.


Sign up for our email newsletter