Last Updated : 12/6/2010
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Dr. Ira Shah

What is headache


Headache is a condition that occurs due to

pain in the head

. The pain may be due to the tension in the nerves, spasm of blood vessels of the head or tightening of muscles of scalp and neck. Headache dose not occur due to pain in the brain.

What are the

causes of headache


The commonest cause of headache is fever that leads to muscle pain as in a viral flu. It subsides with painkillers. Other common causes of headache are migraine,
tension headaches
, sinusitis, common cold, Ear Infection and refractive errors. Rarely headache may occur due to brain tumor, meningitis or high blood pressure.

What is Migraine

Migraine is a type of headache usually affecting one side of the head, is sharp and throbbing and may be associated with bright spots of light. It may be precipitated by sunlight, chocolates, watching TV or using a computer. It may last for a few hours and respond to painkillers. Occasionally, some children may feel better after vomiting. It is commonly due to spasm of blood vessels supplying the brain.

What are tension headache?
Tension headache is due to excessive tightening of the muscles of the scalp. The pain feels like a tight band around the head and is dull and constant. It is seen more with stress as prior to the exam. It gets relieved with painkillers and removing the stress.

What are the danger signs of a headache?
Headache that is early morning i.e. a child wakes up with a headache

- Headaches associated with forceful vomiting
- Headaches leading to sleep disturbances
- Headaches associated with unconsciousness or fainting episodes.

These types of headaches should be immediately shown to a doctor.

How is a headache relieved?
Painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can relieve most of the headaches. Aspirin should be avoided as it may lead to a dangerous brain condition called as Reye's syndrome. Most headaches disappear with rest or sleep. Headaches that persist need evaluation by a doctor to rule out refractive errors, sinusitis and ear problems. Headaches with danger signs may require further tests to find the cause.

Migraine if frequent and leading to several absentees from school needs to be treated by medications to prevent migraine. Such medications need to be given under a doctor's supervision. For patients with migraine, precipitating factors such as bright lights, food items (Chocolate, Cheese, yogurt, bananas, caffeine) should be avoided.

Contributor Information and Disclosures Dr. Ira Shah
Consultant Pediatrician, B.J.Wadia Hospital for Children, Mumbai, India

First Created : 5/7/2001
Contributor Information and Disclosures

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