Most headaches will go away on their own and are not a sign of something more serious.
How you can ease headaches yourself
Headaches can last between 30 minutes and several hours.
- drink plenty of water
- get plenty of rest if you have a cold or the flu
- try to relax – stress can make headaches worse
- exercise when you can
- take paracetamol or ibuprofen
- do not drink alcohol
- do not skip meals (even if you might not feel like eating anything)
- do not sleep more than you usually would – it can make the headache worse
- do not strain your eyes for a long time – for example, by looking at a screen
See a GP if:
- your headache keeps coming back
- painkillers do not help and your headache gets worse
- you have a bad throbbing pain at the front or side of your head – this could be a migraine or, more rarely, a cluster headache
- you feel sick, vomit and find light or noise painful
- you get other symptoms – for example, your arms or legs feel numb or weak
Get advice from 111 now if you have a severe headache and:
- your jaw hurts when eating
- blurred or double vision
- your scalp feels sore
These could be signs that the arteries in your head and neck are inflamed. This needs urgent treatment.
111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.
Other ways to get help
Get an urgent GP appointment
A GP may be able to treat you.
Ask your GP practice for an urgent appointment.
Call 999 or go to A&E if:
- you injured your head badly – for example, from a fall or accident
- the headache came on suddenly and is extremely painful
You have an extremely painful headache and:
- sudden problems speaking or remembering things
- loss of vision
- you're feeling drowsy or confused
- you have a very high temperature, feel hot and shivery, and have a stiff neck or a rash
- the white part of your eye is red
What can cause headaches
The most common reasons are:
- having a cold or the flu
- drinking too much alcohol
- bad posture
- eyesight problems
- not eating regular meals
- not drinking enough fluids (dehydration)
- taking too many painkillers
- women having their period or menopause
Page last reviewed: 21/12/2017
Next review due: 21/12/2020