Most headaches will go away on their own and are not 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
  • get plenty of rest if you have a cold or the flu
  • try to relax – stress can make headaches worse
  • exercise when you can
  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen


  • do not drink alcohol
  • do not skip meals (even if you might not feel like eating anything)
  • do not sleep more than you usually would – it can make the headache worse
  • do not strain your eyes for a long time – for example, by looking at a screen








See a GP if:

  •  your headache keeps coming back
  •  painkillers do not 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
[Last reviewed 2017-12-21]