Most headaches are minor, and you can treat them with a pain reliever. Some headaches, however, signal a dangerous or serious medical problem. Don't ignore unexplained headaches or headaches that steadily worsen.

Get immediate medical attention if your headache:

  • Develops suddenly and severely
  • Progressively worsens over the course of a single day or persists for several days
  • Causes mental confusion or loss of consciousness

Immediate medical attention is also needed if your headache is accompanied by:

  • Seizures, dizziness or loss of balance
  • Weakness or paralysis, such as in the arms or legs
  • Numbness
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • A reddened eye

Also seek medical attention if your headache:

  • Is accompanied by fever, stiff neck or rash
  • Is accompanied by changes in vision, such as blurring or seeing halos around lights
  • Is severe and follows a recent sore throat or respiratory infection
  • Begins or worsens after a head injury, fall or bump
  • Is triggered by changing the position of your head, coughing, sneezing, bending or physical activity
  • Is a different type of headache from your usual type and you're older than 50
Last Updated: 12-04-2018
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