Headache is pain in any region of the head. Headaches may occur on one or both sides of the head, be isolated to a certain location, radiate across the head from one point, or have a vise-like quality. A headache may be a sharp pain, throbbing sensation or dull ache. Headaches may appear gradually or suddenly, and they may last less than an hour or for several days.

Seek emergency care
A headache can be a symptom of a serious condition, such as a stroke, meningitis or encephalitis. Go to a hospital emergency room or call 911 or your local emergency number if you have the worst headache of your life, a sudden, severe headache or a headache accompanied by:

  • Confusion or trouble understanding speech
  • Fainting
  • High fever, greater than 102 F to 104 F (39 C to 40 C)
  • Numbness, weakness or paralysis on one side of your body
  • Stiff neck
  • Trouble seeing
  • Trouble speaking
  • Trouble walking
  • Nausea or vomiting (if not clearly related to the flu or a hangover)

Schedule a doctor's visit
See a doctor if you experience headaches that:

  • Occur more frequently than usual
  • Are more severe than usual
  • Worsen or don't improve with appropriate use of over-the-counter drugs
  • Prevent you from working, sleeping or participating in normal activities
  • Cause you distress, and you would like to find treatment options that enable you to control them better
Jun. 04, 2013