When to Go to the ER for a Headache or Migraine

When to Go to the ER

Aug 20, 2019


Everyone gets an occasional headache. In most cases, you can get rid of it by taking an over-the-counter pain killer, drinking water, or taking a nap. Even those who suffer from frequent migraines don’t need to run to the hospital every time they feel one coming on.

However, there are instances when a headache may be a sign that there may be something significantly wrong with your head. How can you recognize some of the symptoms, and when is it time to go to the Emergency Room?

Signs of a Tension Headache

A tension headache is the most type of headaches. It involves a mild to moderate pain around your head that can be managed with over-the-counter medications. They usually involve a dull pain or sensation of pressure across your forehead or the sides of your head and they are relatively short in duration.

Tension headaches may also be chronic if you get them frequently. If they are manageable with ibuprofen and rest, you generally won’t have anything to worry about; but if they last for hours and you get them almost on a daily basis, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor to rule out a more serious condition.

Signs of a Migraine

While migraines are also headaches, they are much worse due to the accompanying symptoms:

  • A throbbing sensation at the temples (sides of your head)
  • Extreme sensitivity to light
  • Nausea
  • Neck stiffness

Some people who suffer from regular migraines often experience warning signs of an upcoming episode. These include seeing an aura around objects, flashes of light, blind spots, or tingling on one side of the head. They can be triggered by stress, lack of sleep, missing meals, bright lights, strong sunds, certain smells, or hormonal changes.

If you experience migraines, schedule a doctor appointment to rule out other health issues and to determine whether prescription medication would help you manage symptoms.

Sudden and Severe Headaches

Most headaches come on gradually, and if you’re paying attention to your body, you can stop the headache from getting worse. Serious headaches come on quickly and are extremely intense.

If you would describe your headache as “the worst headache of your life,” you should go to an emergency room. It could be a sign of a life threatening condition.

Signs That a Headache Is a Medical Emergency

In addition to tension headaches and migraines, there are times when a headache can be a sign of an emergency, such as a stroke, meningitis, or a brain tumor. If you experience any of the following symptoms, dial 911 or go to the ER immediately:

If you don’t want to call 911, have a friend, family, or Uber or Lyft driver take you to the ER. Driving with a severe headache could put your life and the lives of others in danger.

24-Hour Emergency Room Services in Colorado Springs and Texas

If you or a loved one have a medical emergency, we can provide the care you need. If you have questions or need immediate treatment, your nearest Complete Care location is ready to help, no matter the time of day or night. We offer a variety of services to help you and your family in your time of need. No appointments are necessary.

Visit us online to find the Complete Care location nearest you.