It's probably not cause for worry if...
Call your doctor when...
- The headache comes on after you've consumed a large amount of alcohol. You likely have a hangover.
- Your head hurts on days you drink less than your usual amounts of coffee, tea, or soda. You're probably feeling the effects of caffeine withdrawal.
- You feel a bandlike pain across the front or back of your head or neck. When accompanied by stress or sleep problems, this is most likely a tension headache. If you get one frequently, make an appointment to see your doctor.
- You also have a runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, aching muscles, or fever—indications of a viral infection, such as a cold. If the symptoms last more than two weeks, contact your physician; you could have something more than a simple infection.
- You have nausea or vomiting and you recently began taking prescription or nonprescription medication. You may be suffering from a drug reaction. It's important to notify your physician so that she can adjust your treatment and know what not to give you in the future.
- There's also throbbing eye pain and/or blurred vision. These symptoms can indicate increased eye pressure (caused by anything from glaucoma to a tumor) or high blood pressure.
- Your headaches are severe and tend to occur repeatedly over several days, go away for weeks or months, and then start again. This pattern is typical of cluster headaches, and your doctor may be able to prescribe drugs or suggest lifestyle changes to help prevent future attacks.
- You have nausea or vomiting, impaired vision, or fatigue just before your headache. These are all migraine symptoms. If you get this kind of headache on a regular basis, talk to your doctor about medications that can alleviate the pain or prevent the migraine altogether.
- You're over 50 and have suddenly started to get frequent headaches. This could indicate something serious, like an aneurysm, a brain tumor or an infection (such as encephalitis), so call your doctor immediately. The most common types of headaches—migraine and tension—usually begin earlier in life.
- You've suffered a blow to your head and, although you have no other symptoms, the headache lasts more than two days. You may have a mild concussion.