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.
Ways to manage a headache at home
A doctor may advise you take a painkiller such as paracetamol, which can provide 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 these medications. Speak to your pharmacist or doctor for further guidance on whether to use these medications and how to get and use them.
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.
Get some rest
Stress can also cause headaches. To help ease a headache caused by stress, try some deep breathing exercises.
Try an ice pack
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.
Things to avoid if you have a headache
Certain foods or activities can make a headache worse. These include:
- alcohol - it's generally best to avoid alcohol if you’ve got a headache
- skipping meals - low blood sugar levels are thought to trigger some types of headache, so make sure you eat regularly
- using a computer screen for long periods of time - this can strain your eyes