If it is the first or worse headache you have had, it is important to have them assessed. Is there a reason for them starting or getting really bad? You need to find this out.
If you are aged over 50, or under 10 and had no prior history or family history of headaches
As you age, more things can go wrong. This is why you need to assess a headache that starts when you are over the age of 50 and there is no family history of them. Headaches in young children aren’t that common. If they do start you need to have them assessed.
The headaches are getting progressively worse in frequency and intensity
If your headaches are getting more frequent and getting more intense, it is important to seek medical attention. Again, you need to find out whether there is a reason for these changes.
A severe headache of sudden onset
This is often referred to as a ‘Thunderclap headache’. This is a headache that suddenly occurs and appears to have no known cause. If it is associated with sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg and only on one side of the body, it can be a warning sign of a stroke. Other symptoms may be, sudden onset of confusion, trouble speaking and walking. If you experience these symptoms, seek medical attention.
Rapid onset with exertion or exercise
This type of headache can be a sign of something more sinister going on. These can be a sign of a brain bleed or other associated problems.
A severe Headache with a Stiff neck and Fever
A severe headache that is associated with a stiff neck, high fever, nausea and vomiting can be a warning sign of meningitis. Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. These are called the meninges. In some cases a rash can also be present with meningitis. Once again, these signs require medical attention.
A headache as a result of head trauma
There has been lots of news coverage recently with concussion of sports stars and when to play or not to play. If you are unfortunate enough to get some sort of head trauma and develop headaches as a result, you need to seek medical attention. Significant head trauma can lead to concussion, bleeding on the brain and other unwanted problems.
There you have some of the key “red flags” to look out for with headaches. As I mentioned earlier, these are rare, but it is important to be aware of them. The vast majority of headaches can be helped with simple treatment and home help advice. If you are unsure, always err on the side of caution and seek medical advice. It is better to be safe than sorry. As usual, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me here.
P.S. The picture below is an 1819 caricature by George Cruickshank. Headaches can feel like this sometimes.