A headache is a continuous pain in the head. It does not occur in the brain, as it does not contain sensory nerves. A headache occurs in the membranes surrounding the brain, or in the muscles and blood vessels beneath the scalp. Pain commences if the above are stretched or swollen. This can be a response to factors such as: a stuffy atmosphere; hunger; dehydration; intensive study, anxiety or stress. A headache without other symptoms such as a fever usually disappears within a few hours, especially if it improves after taking paracetamol and rest. Headaches occasionally are a display of underlying disorders. It is worthwhile noting when a child complains of a headache, as young children rarely make such a complaint, not really knowing from where the pain is coming from. Older children are more aware of the location of the headache, so the appropriate treatment can be administered.
Always try to discover the cause of the headache, so possible future headaches can be eliminated. Simple triggers include missing a meal; not drinking enough water; being in a smokey room; sitting in the hot sun for too long; straining your eyes while reading, watching television; or working on the computer; allergies and sinusitis. If a child develops frequent headaches, take them to your doctor, who may even recommend an eye examination. If a headache is particularly painful, lie in a quiet room with the curtains drawn and place a damp face cloth on the forehead. Offer water and a healthy carbohydrate snack if a meal was missed. If necessary administer paracetamol appropriate for the age group.
Take the family member's temperature using a fever strip or thermometer. If the reading is above 38deg/100.4 F, take steps to reduce the temperature. Check for other symptoms such as a stuffy or runny nose, indicating a cold. If the pain is around the top of the nose and eyes and is worse when they first wake up, the cause may be sinusitis. If headaches occur frequently on one side of the head and the patient becomes light sensitive, feels nauseous and vomits but has no fever, then it could be a migraine. Consult your doctor if the family member's headache is severe, recurs frequently, especially if they are worse on waking and there is no relief within four hours of treatment.
A headache can occasionally be a sign for immediate medical help if:
- Your family member has a fever, vomiting, hides from bright light and has pain bending their chin to their chest and is drowsy and distant. This could be meningitis or encephalitis.
- If the person has had a recent bang on the head, which could cause a serious head injury. Other signs of a head injury are confused, odd behaviour, vomiting and or difficulty in breathing.
There are various complementary treatments available to treat basic headache, often successfully. Chiropractors will treat headaches arising from problems in the neck. Western herbalists treat with vasodilators or vasoconstrictors, anti-inflammatory and analgesic herbs, depending on the cause of the headache. Chinese herbalists see headaches as an exuberance of energy during the growing years. Once any underlying imbalances have been solved, herbs are prescribed to treat any further headaches.
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