An ailment we all complain of from time to time, the common headache can be caused by lots of different conditions ranging from the trivial to the life threatening. When headache strikes, some people immediately think the worst and worry they have a brain tumour or brain haemorrhage while others boast that they don’t like/never take painkillers and so suffer with the pain. By following a few straightforward steps, it’s quite simple to ease both the pain of a headache and also the worry as to what it might be.


Q. OK, I have a headache and I’m worried! What should I do?

A. Always try taking some simple pain relief such as two Paracetamol and repeat this after four to six hours (or try Ibuprofen 2 x 200mg tablets and repeat this in six to eight hours). This might relieve your headache completely or partially or not at all. If you end up having to visit your GP, this is useful information for the Doctor who will invariably ask you ‘Have you tried anything for the headache?’

Important questions to ask yourself when headache strikes:

  • Is your headache similar to previous headaches that you might have had?

When you have a headache, do you notice any associated symptoms such as the following:

  • Does the light hurt your eyes – do you prefer to be in a place of darkness because it eases the headache?
  • Do you have any feelings of nausea? (Feeling sick but not vomiting).
  • Do normal noises sound louder than usual (eg a door closing)?

Q. I’ve tried pain relief but it hasn’t worked and my headache is lasting a long time. What now?

A. Usually when headaches persist for several weeks or months, most people seek medical advice. So if the frequency and severity of the headaches have remained unchanged over an extended time period, then it is most unlikely to have a serious cause. Headaches due to a sinister cause usually progress in severity and frequency over a time period.

Q. When should I seek help for a severe headache?

A. Sudden onset of severe headache (described by people as ‘like a thunderclap’ in the head) should not be ignored. Urgent help should be sought (call 112 or 999) if there is any change in the level of consciousness or momentary blackout, fainting episode or loss of power affecting one side of the body such as an arm or leg or both. This may point to a life threatening event and if that’s the case, it’s time to get to an Emergency Room for definitive assessment.