Headaches are Such a PAIN! What causes headaches and what can I do to get rid of it FAST!

Headaches are common, affecting 50-75% of teens and young adults at least once per month. In the vast majority of these cases, there is nothing serious to worry about. However, headaches can be upsetting and cause you to worry.

What are the main causes?

  • Illness: Allergies, sinus infection, viral infections, strep, UTIs to name a few can be associated with headaches.
  • Diet: Skipping meals or dehydration can cause headaches. In addition, particular foods such as chocolate, processed meats, aged cheeses, red wine and dairy products are known to be associated with headaches. Caffeine (especially sudden decreases) is also associated.
  • Drugs/Alcohol: Most can have the effect of headache, especially alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines (stimulants), and diet pills.
  • Sleep problems or minor head injuries can cause headaches.
  • Rare causes: prescribed medications, dental infections, eye muscle imbalance or not using glasses (can cause pain around eye region).

What are causes for which I should be concerned?

  • In very rare cases, headaches are a symptom of a brain tumor, high blood pressure or other serious problem.

When should I seek medical care?

  • Head injury, especially if you’re knocked out.
  • Seizures/fainting associated with headache.
  • Frequency of headaches increase, or you have to use medication more than twice per week.
  • Pain is severe and prevents you from doing your daily activities.
  • Vision problems are associated such as blurring or eyespots.
  • Fever, vomiting, stiff neck, toothache, jaw/sinus pain are associated.

What are the most common types of headache?

  • Tension: Feels like a dull ache, usually on both sides of the head or front/back. Sometimes the ache starts in shoulders and moves up. Pressure, stress, anxiety or depression can cause tension headaches.
  • Migraine: Throbbing and often one side of the head, but sometimes both sides. Migraine headaches can be associated with feeling faint or nauseous. Often, there is a family history of migraines.

What can I do on my own to treat my headache?

  • Tension headaches are often best treated by Tylenol or ibuprofen. If these treatments don’t help or if you’re experiencing headaches often, seek medical care.
  • Migraine headaches may require prescription medications, many of which can stop the headache at the first sign of symptoms.
  • Keep a headache diary recording the following information to help identify triggers:
  • When do the headaches occur?
  • How long does your headache last?
  • What were you doing when headache started?
  • What did you eat drink that day prior to symptoms?
  • How much sleep did you get in prior 24 hours?
  • What other symptoms are present?
  • What medications have you taken?
  • What helps?

You don’t have to suffer! As a college student, you don’t have time for headaches, so do what you can to prevent them, treat them and forget about them!

Brown University Headaches