Your head is pounding and you’re miserable. But you’ve got stuff to do and the last thing you have time for is another headache. So you decide to pop a couple of pills and keep soldiering in.
If you’re prone to headaches you might even find yourself making this same decision once a week or more. But how do you know if your pain really is just another run of the mill headache? Could it be something far more serious this time?
Well, the good news is headaches that signify something dangerous is happening are rare. But there are times ignoring your headache is the last thing you should do.
Following are three types of headaches you should never ignore.
1. Headache with a high fever
It’s easy to dismiss a headache with a fever as a symptom of the flu. Don’t make that mistake. Head and neck pain accompanied by a high fever are a common symptom of meningitis.
This dangerous disease causes the protective membranes covering your brain and spinal cord to become inflamed. It can cause permanent brain damage, or even death.
Instead look for these other clues that could tip you off to whether or not the headache is more serious.
- With meningitis the headache and fever typically come on quickly in just a matter of hours.
- The fever is often very high, 102 degrees or more.
- You also may have a stiff neck, nausea or vomiting and a sensitivity to light.
A severe headache and a high fever together are reason enough to go to the E.R. to get checked out. Don’t wait for the other symptoms to develop.
2. Sudden, severe headache with no identifiable cause
During a stroke blood flow to your brain is temporarily cut off and it can cause brain damage, or death. You may already be familiar with some of the most common symptoms of a stroke such as facial drooping, numbness in your arms or legs, difficulty speaking or understanding others and trouble walking.
However, those aren’t the only signs of a stroke. A sudden and severe headache that seems to come out of nowhere is another, often overlooked, symptom. The headache is typically accompanied by nausea with vomiting and vision changes.
Now if you’re a migraine sufferer those last few symptoms might sound familiar. Migraines can come with nausea, vomiting and vision changes too. But if you’ve never had migraines before, or you’re experiencing some of the other common stroke symptoms listed above, it’s a good idea to head to the E.R. to get checked out.
3. The worst headache you’ve ever had
If you suddenly have what you would call “the worst headache” of your life don’t hesitate to get emergency help immediately. Severe head pain that’s worse than any you’ve ever experienced before could be the result of a brain aneurysm.
An aneurysm is a bulge in an artery in your brain that is in danger of leaking or bursting. If it does it can cause brain damage and death. So acting quickly can literally be a matter of life or death.
A headache caused by a brain aneurysm, often called a “thunderclap” headache, may also come with other symptoms including a drooping eyelid, a single dilated pupil, nausea, stiff neck and blurry vision.
The bottom line with headaches is it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you ever feel like a headache isn’t just a headache, or if you experience the symptoms of any one of these three serious headaches get to an E.R.