Everyone gets headaches, but sometimes it can be difficult to know what to do for a severe headache. A great many people suffering from severe headaches visit the nearest emergency room, but is medical attention really necessary? In some cases, the answer is yes. Here is a rundown of what you should know about headaches.
- Infections transmitted by insects can cause not only severe headaches, but also fever, vomiting, fatigue, and rash. These infe3ctions include things like malaria, typhus, African sleeping sickness, and Indian tick fever. If you experience these symptoms, and you have traveled recently, tell your doctor.
- Meningitis or encephalitis can be “caught” from another person, or can be a complication of an infection of the lungs or another organ. Symptoms of these illnesses include a severe headache, neck stiffness, high fever, vomiting, sensitivity to light, back and leg pain, and, in severe cases, unconsciousness.
- Sudden severe headache and stiff neck can be caused by Lyme disease, if the initial “bull’s-eye” rash is overlooked. This illness also causes muscle weakness, numbness, paralysis of facial muscles, and heart palpitations, as well as poor concentration and visual problems.
- A stroke can sometimes cause a headache. In such cases, the headache is usually one-sided, and comes with muscle weakness or paralysis and loss of sensation.
- A severe “thunderclap” headache can mean a ruptured brain artery aneurysm, which results in bleeding between the brain and the membrane that covers it. See a doctor immediately if you have this sort of headache in conjunction with nausea or vomiting, neck stiffness and back pain, or a loss of consciousness.
More common and expected causes of severe headaches include sinusitis, a hangover, food poisoning, illegal drugs, poisons, and high blood pressure. One of the most common types of headaches is the migraine, which can be triggered by things like monosodium glutamate, red wine, old cheese, or strong scents. A migraine presents as a one-sided, throbbing headache, made worse by physical exertion, with nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, and visual disturbances like flashing lights. Headache relief can often come from over-the-counter pain relievers, extra fluids, and adequate rest.
A severe headache that warrants an immediate call to the doctor or visit to the ER is one that involves:
- A change in normal patterns of a migraine.
- A new headache that gets worse over days.
- Any headache brought on by sneezing, coughing, bearing down, or straining while on the toilet.
- Significant and unintentional weight loss.
- Weakness or paralysis that persists beyond the headache.
Knowing what to do for a severe headache is a matter of evaluating your symptoms correctly. If you have concerns about your headache, the best course of action is to visit a doctor or an emergency room. First Choice Emergency Room is a freestanding ER with dedicated doctors and nurses able to handle minor and major emergencies, for both adults and children. For more information, visit the First Choice website, or join the online community on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.