Headache: When to Call the Doctor about Your 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 be a sign of 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
If you or your child has any of these headache symptoms, get medical care right away:
- A sudden, new, severe headache
- A headache that is associated with neurological symptoms such as:
- Sudden loss of balance or falling
- Numbness or tingling
- Speech difficulties
- Mental confusion
- 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 up 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 to 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.