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Headaches or Head Injuries

Find Out When to Go to the ER for a Headache or Head Injury

Occasional headaches are a normal part of life for many people. They come and go without much thought and don’t require emergency care. However, they are sometimes warning signs that you’re experiencing a serious medical condition, such as a brain aneurysm or stroke. In addition, headaches accompanied by head injuries can be serious. Often, they are a sign of a traumatic brain injury that requires medical attention.

Types of Headaches: Primary Vs. Secondary

If your headache is the symptom of another condition, such as a head injury, it’s a secondary headache. Secondary ones always require urgent medical care. However, primary ones don’t have an underlying medical condition and can normally be treated at home, although you might want to get medication from your primary care provider.

Migraines are a common condition for adults. These normally last for up to 72 hours and are typically on one side of the head. If you get migraines, you probably experience throbbing pain, sensitivity to lights and sounds, and nausea.

Tension headaches usually materialize around the back of the head and in the forehead and temples. It feels like there is a band around your head, and you might have symptoms for several days when dealing with one of these.

If you’re between the ages of 40-80, you’re at risk for hypnic headaches. They cause pain on both sides of the head and generally last for up to one hour. Sometimes, they only last for 15 minutes.

Cluster headaches normally last for up to two hours, and you will feel pain on one side of the head. Along with pain, you can experience an enlarged pupil, droopy eyelid, stuffy nostril, and tearing. All of your symptoms will likely be located on one side of your head.

Finally, you can get sinus headaches. The pain and pressure manifest in the forehead, cheekbones, and nose. You also might have a fever, a running nose, and swelling with a sinus headache.

These can be treated by a medical provider or specialist.

When Is It an Emergency?

It’s important to go to the emergency room or call 911 if:

  • The headache started right after engaging in physical activity.
  • The headache is more painful than any other headache you’ve experienced.
  • The headache worsens over the course of a day.
  • The headache started after a head injury.
  • Your immune system is weak.
  • You have or have had cancer.
  • You just started getting headaches after the age of 50.
  • You notice speech and vision changes.
  • You have balance issues.
  • You are confused and have memory loss.
  • You cannot properly move your arms and legs.
  • You have a fever.
  • Your neck is stiff.
  • You feel nauseous.
  • You are vomiting.

How to Get Rid of a Headache at Home

Are you dealing with head pain, but it isn’t an emergency? You can take steps to manage it at home, including:

  • Taking over-the-counter medications to relieve pain
  • Applying a cold compress to the painful area
  • Resting
  • Avoiding light and stimuli

While headaches are a part of life, they can be a sign of a medical issue. If you notice any symptoms that your headache is an emergency, visit an ER or call 911 immediately.