Headaches are so common that about half of the adult population have at least one headache every year, according to the World Health Organization. Headaches can sometimes be a symptom of a more serious health condition, so here’s what you should know.
A headache is a constant dull pain or discomfort experienced in your head that can spread to or from the neck or your face. Most of them go away after about 30 minutes up to several hours. Headaches are not usually serious and you can often take care of it on your own without the need for medical attention.
There are over 300 different types of headaches, classified into 2 main groups: primary (no underlying causes) and secondary (caused by other conditions). The most common types of headaches are:
The most common causes include:
Visit your doctor if:
You should also see your doctor if headaches happen with any of the following symptoms:
It is important to see a doctor if the headache is persistent to have a history and examination.
Tests may be carried out to asses for any underling medical condition first. You can buy over-the-counter medications to bring some relief from headaches, for example paracetamol, ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin (never give it to children younger than 16 due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome). Always read the instructions on the packages before taking OTC drugs. Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you have any problems.
Sometimes pain seems not to stop even after taking medicines, however, do not overuse painkillers as it can cause rebound headaches.
Other medications are also used in treating severe migraines, such as sumatriptan. Opioids like morphine are not warranted. Studies show that supplements, for example magnesium, vitamin B2 and CoQ10, may help migraine management.
Some people may find alternative treatments, for instance acupuncture, herbal or health products including supplements, or meditation, useful in pain relief, although these are not yet supported by research evidence.
Your doctor may suggest keeping a headache diary for your child or teen to help find the best course of treatment. It should record information like the date, time and duration of all headaches experienced, symptoms other than headaches, possible triggers and medications taken.
You can ease headache with the following simple ways:
There are a number of things you can do to keep headaches at bay.
Dr. Lily Wong 黃淑婷醫生 is a family practitioner at The London Medical Clinic. She is both a registered general practitioner and a pharmacist in the UK and HK. Having lived and worked as a general practitioner for many years in busy practices in London, she relocated to Hong Kong with her family a few years ago. Dr. Wong has also been appointed Honorary Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Hong Kong University, for her teaching of medical students.
This article was independently written by Healthy Matters. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be relied upon for specific medical advice.
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