When to see a doctor

By Mayo Clinic Staff

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're experiencing 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 often than usual
  • Are more severe than usual
  • Worsen or don't improve with appropriate use of over-the-counter drugs
  • Keep 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
Jan. 11, 2018

See also

  1. 6 surprising signs you may have obstructive sleep apnea
  2. Acromegaly
  3. Act FAST if you suspect stroke
  4. Acute sinusitis
  5. Acute sinusitis: Do over-the-counter treatments help?
  6. Alcohol intolerance
  7. Amenorrhea
  8. Anemia
  9. Aneurysm Surgery
  10. Antidepressant withdrawal: Is there such a thing?
  11. Antidepressants and alcohol: What's the concern?
  12. Antidepressants and weight gain: What causes it?
  13. Antidepressants: Can they stop working?
  14. Antidepressants for children and teens
  15. Antidepressants: Side effects
  16. Antidepressants: Selecting one that's right for you
  17. Antidepressants: Which cause the fewest sexual side effects?
  18. Antiphospholipid syndrome
  19. Aplastic anemia
  20. Are you straining your eyes?
  21. Arteriovenous malformation
  22. Aspergillosis
  23. Astigmatism
  24. Infographic: Asymptomatic Carotid Disease
  25. Atypical antidepressants
  26. Base tan? Bad idea
  27. Bee sting
  28. Behcet's disease
  29. Bell's palsy
  30. Brain aneurysm
  31. Brain AVM
  32. Brain tumor
  33. Giant Cell Myocarditis
  34. Parathyroid
  35. Brucellosis
  36. Bruxism (teeth grinding)
  37. Bump on the head: When is it a serious head injury?
  38. Caffeine and depression: Is there a link?
  39. Can chicken soup cure a cold?
  40. Carbon monoxide poisoning
  41. Carotid artery disease
  42. Sleep apnea, central
  43. Chagas disease
  44. Chiari malformation
  45. Chicken soup: Can it treat a cold?
  46. Child abuse
  47. Chronic sinusitis
  48. Clinical depression: What does that mean?
  49. Coarctation of the aorta
  50. Cold and flu viruses: How long can they live outside the body?
  51. Cold or allergy: Which is it?
  52. Cold remedies
  53. Cold sore
  54. Cold symptoms: Does drinking milk increase phlegm?
  55. Common cold
  56. Concussion
  57. Concussion in children
  58. Concussion Recovery
  59. Concussion Telemedicine
  60. Convergence insufficiency
  61. Cough headaches
  62. CPAP machines: Tips for avoiding 10 common problems
  63. Craving and chewing ice: A sign of anemia?
  64. Cupping therapy: Can it relieve fibromyalgia pain?
  65. Cushing syndrome
  66. Dehydration
  67. Dengue fever
  68. Depression and anxiety: Can I have both?
  69. Depression, anxiety and exercise
  70. Depression: Diagnosis is key
  71. Depression in women: Understanding the gender gap
  72. Depression (major depressive disorder)
  73. Depression: Provide support, encouragement
  74. Depression: Supporting a family member or friend
  75. Do you drink enough water?
  76. Does obstructive sleep apnea increase my risk for Alzheimer's disease?
  77. Does zinc work for colds?
  78. Don't let your computer stare you down
  79. Ear infection (middle ear)
  80. Ear infection treatment: Do alternative therapies work?
  81. Early HIV symptoms: What are they?
  82. Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE): What is it?
  83. Ebola transmission: Can Ebola spread through the air?
  84. Ebola virus and Marburg virus
  85. Echinacea: Is it effective for the common cold?
  86. Ehrlichiosis
  87. Eisenmenger syndrome
  88. Encephalitis
  89. Essential thrombocythemia
  90. Exercise headaches
  91. External compression headaches
  92. Eyestrain
  93. Farsightedness
  94. Fever
  95. Fever treatment: Quick guide to treating a fever
  96. Fibromuscular dysplasia
  97. Fibromyalgia
  98. Fibromyalgia or not?
  99. Fibromyalgia and acupuncture
  100. Fibromyalgia: Does exercise help or hurt?
  101. Fibromyalgia: Linked to other health problems?
  102. Fibromyalgia pain: Options for coping
  103. Fibromyalgia: Self-care tips
  104. Fibromyalgia and Neurontin
  105. Fish oil and depression
  106. Flu masks
  107. Flu shots
  108. Flu: When to see a doctor?
  109. Flu vaccine: Safe for people with egg allergy?
  110. Fluzone High-Dose: What distinguishes it from other flu vaccines?
  111. Galactorrhea
  112. Gastroenteritis: First aid
  113. Genital herpes
  114. Genital herpes: Can you get it from a toilet seat?
  115. Giant cell arteritis
  116. Glioma
  117. Grand mal seizure
  118. Hangover prevention: Do lighter colored drinks help?
  119. Hangovers
  120. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome
  121. Have a cold? Common sense rules
  122. Have a cold? Fight back with humidity
  123. Have a cold? Fight it with fluids
  124. Have cold sores? Keep them to yourself
  125. Headaches in children
  126. Headaches and stress
  127. Heat exhaustion
  128. Heatstroke
  129. Hemophilia
  130. Histoplasmosis
  131. HIV/AIDS
  132. Honey: An effective cough remedy?
  133. How to get used to positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy
  134. How well do you wash your hands?
  135. Humidifier care 101
  136. Humidifiers
  137. Hydrocele
  138. Hyperglycemia in diabetes
  139. Hyperparathyroidism
  140. Hyponatremia
  141. Hypoparathyroidism
  142. Impacted wisdom teeth
  143. Improve obstructive sleep apnea with physical activity
  144. Influenza (flu)
  145. Intermittent explosive disorder
  146. Intervention: Help a loved one overcome addiction
  147. Intracranial hematoma
  148. Iron deficiency anemia
  149. Is antibacterial soap a do or a don't?
  150. Is fibromyalgia hereditary?
  151. Jellyfish stings
  152. Depression and diet
  153. Preventing lead exposure
  154. Lead poisoning
  155. Legionnaires' disease
  156. Lexapro side effects: Is breast tenderness common?
  157. Listeria infection
  158. Living better with obstructive sleep apnea
  159. Living with Brain Tumors
  160. Living with Lupus
  161. Long Term Brain Cancer Survivor
  162. Low blood sodium in older adults: A concern?
  163. Lung cancer
  164. Infographic: Lung Cancer
  165. Lung nodules: Can they be cancerous?
  166. Lupus
  167. Lupus: Can it cause hair loss?
  168. Lupus: Can it cause hives?
  169. Lupus affects kidneys
  170. Lyme disease
  171. Making sense of obstructive sleep apnea treatments
  172. Malaria
  173. Male depression: Understanding the issues
  174. Managing Headaches
  175. Managing Meningitis
  176. MAOIs and diet: Is it necessary to restrict tyramine?
  177. Marathon and the Heat
  178. Marijuana and depression
  179. Mayo Clinic Minute: Arteriovenous malformation or AVM
  180. Mayo Clinic Minute Meningitis 101 for college students
  181. Mayo Clinic Minute: Prevent migraines with magnetic stimulation
  182. Mayo Clinic Minute: The facts about three flu vaccine myths
  183. Mayo Clinic Minute Weathering migraines
  184. Mayo Clinic Minute What you need to know about stroke
  185. Mayo Clinic Minute: What you should know about bats and rabies
  186. Mayo Clinic Minute: Why you need your flu shot now
  187. Mayo Clinic Minute: Will there be a Lyme disease vaccine for humans?
  188. Meningioma
  189. Meningitis
  190. Mental health: Overcoming the stigma of mental illness
  191. Mental health providers: Tips on finding one
  192. Mental illness
  193. Migraine
  194. Migraine medications and antidepressants
  195. Migraine treatment: Can antidepressants help?
  196. Infographic: Migraine Treatments: Botox & Nerve Blocking
  197. Migraines and gastrointestinal problems: Is there a link?
  198. Migraines and Vertigo
  199. Migraines: Are they triggered by weather changes?
  200. Alleviating migraine pain
  201. Mild depression: Are antidepressants effective?
  202. Infographic: Molecular Classification of Gliomas
  203. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  204. Mononucleosis
  205. Mononucleosis: Can it recur?
  206. Mononucleosis and Epstein-Barr: What's the connection?
  207. Myocarditis
  208. Naegleria infection
  209. Nasal polyps
  210. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma
  211. Natural remedies for depression: Are they effective?
  212. Nearsightedness
  213. Nervous breakdown: What does it mean?
  214. Neti pot: Can it clear your nose?
  215. Neti pot solution: Can I make my own?
  216. New Test for Preeclampsia
  217. New Way to Fix Aneurysms
  218. Nocturnal panic attacks: What causes them?
  219. He's the bravest kid I've ever seen
  220. Sleep apnea, obstructive
  221. Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  222. Obstructive sleep apnea: How quickly will I see results from treatment?
  223. Occipital nerve stimulation: Effective migraine treatment?
  224. Ocular migraine: When to seek help
  225. Oil of oregano: Can it treat sinusitis?
  226. Paget's disease of bone
  227. Pain and depression: Is there a link?
  228. Panic attacks and panic disorder
  229. Parvovirus infection
  230. Pheochromocytoma
  231. Photodynamic therapy: An effective treatment for lung cancer?
  232. Pituitary tumors
  233. Plague
  234. Plugged ears: What is the remedy?
  235. Pneumonia
  236. Polio
  237. Polycystic kidney disease
  238. Polycythemia vera
  239. Polymorphous light eruption
  240. Polymorphous Light Eruption
  241. Post-concussion syndrome
  242. Postpartum preeclampsia
  243. Preeclampsia
  244. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
  245. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  246. PrEP to prevent HIV
  247. Presbyopia
  248. Presbyopia: Is it causing your blurred vision?
  249. Prolactinoma
  250. Infographic: Proton Beam Brain Tumor
  251. Pseudotumor cerebri
  252. Pulmonary edema
  253. Punk Guitarist Survives Brain Tumor
  254. Q fever
  255. Rabies
  256. Radiation sickness
  257. Recurrent breast cancer
  258. Recurring strep throat: When is tonsillectomy useful?
  259. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  260. Rhabdomyolysis
  261. Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  262. Rubella
  263. Salmonella infection
  264. Savella may help fatigue
  265. Scarlet fever
  266. Screen time making your eyes buggy?
  267. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  268. Self-care for the flu
  269. Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  270. Serotonin syndrome
  271. Shingles
  272. Shingles and alcohol
  273. Shingles vaccine: Can I transmit the vaccine virus to others?
  274. Shingles vaccine: Should I get it?
  275. Sinus infection and toothache: Any connection?
  276. Sleep apnea
  277. Sleep apnea and caffeine: Any connection?
  278. CPAP masks
  279. Smallpox
  280. Staph infections
  281. Stop your next migraine before it starts
  282. Strep throat
  283. Strep throat in infants: A common diagnosis?
  284. Stroke
  285. Stroke rehabilitation
  286. Stuffy nose? Try saline spray
  287. Sun rash: Causes and prevention
  288. Sunburn
  289. Sunburn treatment: Do I need medical attention?
  290. Super Survivor Conquers Cancer
  291. Swine flu (H1N1 flu)
  292. Takayasu's arteritis
  293. Take headache relief into your own hands
  294. Tanning: Does a base tan prevent sunburn?
  295. Teen depression
  296. Tension headache
  297. Relieving tension-type headaches
  298. Thermometers: Understand the options
  299. Thrombocytosis
  300. Thunderclap headaches
  301. TMJ disorders
  302. Tonsillitis
  303. Toxic shock syndrome
  304. Infographic: Transplant for Polycystic Kidney Disease
  305. Traumatic brain injury
  306. Treatment-resistant depression
  307. Trichinosis
  308. Tricyclic antidepressants and tetracyclic antidepressants
  309. Tularemia
  310. Typhoid fever
  311. Typing with Brain Waves
  312. Valley fever
  313. Vicks VapoRub: An effective nasal decongestant?
  314. Video: 3 things you didn't know about cold sores
  315. CPAP: How it works
  316. Obstructive sleep apnea: What happens?
  317. Vitamin B-12 and depression
  318. Vitamin C: Can it prevent colds?
  319. Walking pneumonia
  320. Want to avoid cold sores? Use sunblock
  321. Warm-mist versus cool-mist humidifier: Which is better for a cold?
  322. West Nile virus
  323. What is the Zika virus, and should I be worried?
  324. What's the difference between H1N1 flu and influenza A?
  325. Whiplash
  326. Wisdom teeth removal: When is it necessary?
  327. Yellow fever
  328. Zika virus
  329. Do zinc supplements shorten colds?