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Most headaches will go away on their own and aren't a sign of something more serious.

How you can ease headaches yourself

Headaches can last between 30 minutes and several hours.



  Drink plenty of water

  Drink alcohol

  Get plenty of rest if you have a cold or the flu

  Skip meals (even if you might not feel like eating anything)

  Try to relax - stress can make headaches worse

  Sleep more than you usually would - it can make the headache worse

  Exercise when you can

  Strain your eyes for a long time - for example, by looking at a screen

  Take paracetamol or ibuprofen

Contact us if:

  • Your headache keeps coming back
  • Painkillers don't help and your headache gets worse
  • You have a bad throbbing pain at the front or side of your head - this could be a migraine or, more rarely, a cluster headache
  • You feel sick, vomit and find light or noise painful
  • You get other symptoms - for example, your arms or legs feel numb or weak


Call 999 or go to A&E if:

  • You injured your head badly - for example, from a fall or accident
  • The headache came on suddenly and is extremely painful

You have an extremely painful headache and:

  • Sudden problems speaking or remembering things
  • Loss of vision
  • You're feeling drowsy or confused
  • You have a very high temperature, feel hot and shivery, and have a stiff neck or a rash
  • The white part of your eye is red

What can cause headaches

The most common reasons are:

  • Having a cold or the flu
  • Stress
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Bad posture
  • Eyesight problems
  • Not eating regular meals
  • Not drinking enough fluids (dehydration)
  • Taking too many painkillers
  • Women having their period or menopause

NHS Choices

Call 111 when you need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergencyNHS ChoicesThis site is brought to you by My Surgery Website