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Diseases & Conditions

When to Call the Doctor about Your Headache Symptoms

Any kind of pain that you feel is your body’s way of warning you about an injury or illness. Although headaches are rarely the symptoms of a serious illness, occasionally they may indicate a serious medical condition such as a tumor or aneurysm (blood vessel rupture). It is important for you to become familiar with your personal headache symptoms, and those that require immediate medical attention.

What headache symptoms should cause concern?

Symptoms requiring immediate medical care

These headache symptoms should prompt you to seek immediate medical care for yourself or your child:

  • A sudden, new, severe headache
  • A headache that is associated with neurological symptoms such as weakness, dizziness, sudden loss of balance or falling, numbness or tingling, paralysis, speech difficulties, mental confusion, seizures, personality changes/inappropriate behavior, or vision changes (blurry vision, double vision, or blind spots)
  • Headache with a fever, shortness of breath, stiff neck, or rash
  • Headache pain that awakens you at night
  • Headaches with severe nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches that occur after a head injury or accident
  • Getting a new type of headache after age 55
Symptoms requiring an appointment with your health care provider or a headache specialist

Contact your health care provider if you or your child has any of the following symptoms:

  • Three or more headaches per week
  • Headaches that keep getting worse and won’t go away
  • Need to take a pain reliever every day or almost every day for your headaches
  • Need more than 2-3 doses of over-the-counter medications per week to relieve headache symptoms
  • Headaches that are triggered by exertion, coughing, bending, or strenuous activity
  • A history of headaches, but have noticed a recent change in your headache symptoms
References

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 2/1/2012...#9640