While headaches are very common, in most cases they are harmless and can often be treated at home.
However, there are times when you should see a doctor about a headache rather than treat it yourself. For example, seek medical attention if you also have a stiff neck or unexplained vomiting. It’s also important to see a doctor if your headache doesn't go away when you take painkillers.
But if you have a headache and you’ve ruled out a more serious medical cause, here are some things you can do to manage a headache yourself.
Non-prescription pain medication, such as ibuprofen, provides relief from most types of headache, including migraines. Don’t exceed the recommended daily dose and make sure it’s safe for you to take medication like ibuprofen. Speak to a pharmacist if you have any questions about pain medication as they will be able to offer advice about different types of painkillers.
Dehydration is a common cause of primary headaches (headaches without other symptoms), so make sure that you drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water each day. If you don’t want to drink water all the time, good alternatives are low-fat milk or sugar-free drinks like tea.
You may find that your headache goes away if you relax and get plenty of rest and sleep. Rest is especially important if your headache is caused by the flu or a common cold. Stress can also cause headaches. To help ease a headache caused by stress, try some deep breathing exercises.
If you’ve got a menstrual headache, try holding a cold compress or ice pack to your forehead. Some people find that this can help to improve the headache.
Certain foods or activities can make a headache worse. These include:
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.