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15 ways to cure the homework headache

According to a survey by Public Agenda, almost half of all parents of school-age students said they have arguments involving tears or yelling with their kids about homework. And one-third of parents admit those school assignments cause repeated kid meltdowns. There's been some controversy lately about homework that some say isn't necessary, assigned by an administrative policy that's trying to make the parents feel the school is serious about education, or being sure their attendees pass standardized tests. Research says that the right kind of homework assignments enhances children's learning as well as helping them acquire the essential skills for success in school and life (such as organization, self-pacing, problem solving, internal motivation, concentration, memory, goal setting, good old "stick-to-it-ness") and don't forget, they might learn something!

So here are a few tips to help parents weigh the battle versus the learning. The key is a bit of organization from the start.

Make homework mandatory, not a choice. From the beginning maintain a firm, serious attitude about homework. Your kid needs to know that homework is not an option. Enforce the "work before play" rule.

Your role is guider, not doer. While you need to make sure they understand the concepts and are capable of the assignments, once they do, step back! Use the mantra "Never do for your child what your child can do for himself." It may take a bit of adjustment, but hang tight until you reach the desired change: independent, self-motivated learners.

Know the teacher’s expectations. Be clear as to expectations and homework policy so you are all on the same page. If your child is in middle school, she probably has a number of teachers, so you will have to do the same query per teacher. Many teachers prefer an e-mail query — find out how the teacher prefers to be contacted. Most important: Find out, on an average, how long the homework should take per night. That answer will help you determine if your child has too much work, is a procrastinator, has a learning disability or lacks study skills. Talk with your child so he knows you are not only aware of those expectations, but support them.

Develop a weekly homework reminder. Teach your child to create a simple reminder of daily or weekly assignments as well as long-term projects and reports. A white board or chalkboard is preferable because it is reusable. With a permanent marker, list the days of the week or month and then note regular daily or weekly assignments (Monday: sharing; Wednesday: library; Friday: spelling test) as well as practice dates, Scout meetings, tutoring, etc. Use a different color to represent each kid (John is blue; Sally is green). The goal is for your child to be able to do this on her own.

Create a special homework spot. Involve your child in the selection and stock it with necessary school supplies. It helps your kid get organized and saves time wasters: "I can't find a ruler!" The general rule is, the younger the child, the closer that spot will be near you. Put the computer in a place where you can carefully view what your child is doing online. Background noise from TV is distracting. Turn it off.

Set a routine. Select a time that works best for your kid to do his homework — after school, before dinner, after dinner — then stick to it. Ask your child for his input and do try to accommodate his schedule. A set and predictable schedule helps defray the battles and gets your kid in a routine. Drawing a clock face of the set time helps younger kids. Set up a rule: "Homework first, then play."

Praise efforts! A Columbia University study found that praising your child's work effort (not inherent intelligence — "You're so smart") stretches persistence, develops a positive mind-set and increases grades. And restrain the urges to correct all his errors or focus on the mistakes.

Teach study skills. Usually the biggest reason for those homework battles is that kids don't have study skills. So slowly make sure your child has those skills.

Planning skills. Make a list of what needs to be done in order of priority. He can then cross each off as done. A young child can draw a different task on paper strips, then put them in the order he plans to complete them, and then staple the packet together. Each time a task is finished, your child tears off a strip until no more remain.

Divide the assignment into smaller parts. Breaking up homework into smaller chunks is often helpful for kids who have difficulty sticking to a task or who seem overwhelmed by an assignment. Just tell your child to do "one chunk at a time." Gradually you can increase the size of the "work chunks" as your child's confidence increases.

Respect learning style. Tune in to how your child learns and encourage it! Visual: Draw pictures, color code. Auditory: Hears it, plugs in music to tune out sound, hums as he reads, says words out loud. Kinesthetic: Moves — so don't stop him. If your child has trouble focusing, then suggest he work in 20-minute bouts, then take a quick refresher break.

Do the hardest first. Teach your child to do the hardest homework assignment first. It takes the most concentration (which is usually at the beginning of a study session) and the longest time.

Put away. Once done, establish a routine that she immediately puts the work in her folder or binder placed in her backpack and set by the door to find the next morning.

Set a consequence for incomplete work. If you find out the homework isn't getting done and done with the quality you expect, then announce a consequence. For instance, if work isn't finished by a predetermined time (ideally, the same time each night), your kid knows he will lose a desired privilege either that evening or the following day.

Stay in touch with the teacher, especially if you see your child is struggling. Consider a tutor! When you see your child struggling (homework becomes an ongoing battle and your relationship with your kid is taking a dive), and your child continues to fall behind despite homework efforts, then consider a tutor. Consider a high school kid or even a retired teacher. Then make a plan with the teacher so your child is being tutored in exactly the needed areas.

Dr Vanessa Lapointe

Dr Vanessa Lapointe

5 remedies for homework headaches.

  • October 2, 2015
  • Homework , Parenting , School

Every parent has been there. Your child comes home, exhausted after a long day, and you give them a snack, let them have some downtime, sit down to dinner, and then…it’s time to hit the books for them – again!

They don’t want to do it. You don’t want to do it. And depending on what your child is working on, you may not even actually understand what it is that they are supposed to be doing.

So how are you meant to help them with it?

Which raises another question – are you meant to help them with it or should you just leave them to land where they land with whatever they can figure out?

5 Remedies for Homework Headaches

Navigating such homework headaches requires a bit of awareness and a lot of patience. But it is possible.

Here are some tried and true strategies that may be just what the homework-headache doctor ordered!

1. Connect first. Homework second.

The child’s brain is wired in a unique way. It is a brain that has to feel like you are on the same page with the child in order for the child to actually cooperate with what you are about to ask of them. So in the service of that unique wiring, spend some time connecting with your child after school before dropping the homework bomb on them. Play, hang, relax, eat…do something with a real connection energy about it and zero expectations tied to it. And then shift to homework.

2. Stay low.

If you are getting frustrated, evenly silently about your child’s homework, they will sense it. They will smell it coming out of your pores and it will all be over before it has hardly begun. So you have to stay low. And if you can’t then you need to sit with yourself about what is really at the root of your frustration and address that. Is it because you remember what it was to struggle as a student yourself? Is it because you worry your child is falling behind? Is it because you don’t want the judgment of being a bad parent? Is it because you want to save your child from a bad grade? Figure that out. And then address it. Be conscious of it. Move beyond it.

3. Outsource as needed.

Sometimes homework is a battle that parents might wisely decide not to enter into. And that is okay. Especially if your relationship with your child has a lot of other battles already due to sensitivity or other challenging kinds of things. Get creative about finding nurturing substitutes for you in your “village” that can come alongside and support your child with their homework. Know any retired math teachers? Know a high school student you could hire a couple of afternoons a week?

4. Supporting versus rescuing – know where you need to land.

If children always have parents rushing in to get the homework done, the student doesn’t get to have the experience of being successful with rocking out a hard assignment. Ever. And it robs them of the chance to find their stride and their confidence as a learner. On the other hand, if a student is drowning because of stress, learning exceptionalities, lack of understanding, or for any other reason, the humane thing to do is find a little more of your rescuer coming alongside. Maybe you help more than you would otherwise. Maybe you intervene to ask for an extension. Knowing how to balance rescuer verses supporter HAS to come from knowing your child in that moment, on that day, in that circumstance.

5. Keep it real.

If a homework assignment for a student has come down to whether or not YOU happen to be a Nobel Prize winner in physics or a world renowned artist then we’ve got a problem. And it might be worth a conversation with your child’s teacher or even a school administrator about skewed baselines or extraordinary expectations.

The best kind of learning comes from that which is: (a) within a student’s reach, even if barely; and (b) experiential, with the student being able to link the concept at hand to other knowledge and ideas.

Projects that have a student drowning or that get out of hand with the show-off factor, becoming a competition among parents rather than a true feat of learning, need a serious hard look by all involved.

And sometimes, we need to just be fierce about the things we know to be good and true.

Dr V

how to do homework with a headache

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Migraine University Video Series

Preparing for school with migraine disease, college students and migraine triggers, share your story, headache diet, causes of headache disorders in college students.

Many people experience headache disorders, often due to triggers related to their age, gender, health, and overall lifestyle. Students are no different. In fact, these young and seemingly healthy individuals often lead lifestyles that put them at high risk for headache disorders. That is why the National Headache Foundation (NHF) developed Migraine University©. Migraine University is a program aimed at helping students navigate their headache journey while balancing school.  

We invite you to explore the resources on this page and read about other students who have had to balance their school life with their own headache and migraine disorders.  

how to do homework with a headache

The National Headache Foundation (NHF) has prepared a list of tips for the collegians out there to make it through the best four (or more) years of their life with fewer headache occurrences.

Taking these precautions may help avoid headache disorders:.

  • Take frequent breaks to give your eyes a rest. Studying for long periods of time can cause eyestrain. 
  • Invest in an ergonomic chair. Uncomfortable seating can cause neck and back pain that may lead to tension-type headaches.
  • When it comes to alcohol, always drink in moderation, and with plenty of water in between drinks, to avoid hangover headaches in the morning. If hangovers do occur, treat with hydration and foods high in fructose (tomato juice, honey).
  • If you are trying to stay awake to study, drink coffee only in moderation. Caffeine withdrawal can be a common trigger for avid coffee drinkers.
  • Though college students don’t always operate on a regular schedule, try not to vary your meal and sleep schedules too much. Irregular sleep cycles and missing or delaying meals can both trigger migraine attacks.
  • Practice relaxation and biofeedback techniques to help relieve the daily stress and anxiety of college life.

Check out our HeadWise Podcast for more helpful Information:

Preparing for College

  • Visit your primary care physician before leaving for school
  • Schedule doctor’s visits during holiday breaks while at home
  • Select a doctor or healthcare facility you can visit at school (College health centers have limited hours and may not be able to properly treat your condition)
  • Arrange to have medications mailed to you or set-up auto refills at a pharmacy near campus
  • Have digital medical records and insurance cards available
  • Create an emergency plan – inform a roommate or friend of how they can help you in an emergency situation
  • Have an emergency contact list

College Accommodations

Ask your school if they provide accommodations for students living with migraine disease and headache disorders. Most schools have an office dedicated to serving students with disabilities. Check if your school has an Office of Student Accommodations or Office of Educational Accessibility. If they don’t provide accommodations, present them with a suggested list of accommodations for migraine disease and headache disorders. Students with migraine disease and headache disorders deserve the same opportunities to benefit from a college education.

CHAMP Accommodations

  • Modified homework assignments may be necessary as productivity can be greatly reduced during an attack. Ask for extended time for assignments.
  •  Extended time for tests is medically necessary as processing speed is slowed by the cognitive dysfunction that occurs as part of migraine, chronic pain, and multiple medications.
  •  At the onset or worsening of headache/migraine attack, allow the student to take his/her acute medications and rest in a safe and quiet area.
  •  Access to a social worker when indicated. Anxiety and depression are comorbid conditions.
  •  Testing time should not exceed 2 hours (or as tolerated).
  •  Testing in a small quiet distraction-free environment.
  •  Breaks as needed, and not counted as part of testing time.
  •  Access to a calculator for all math and science requiring calculations.
  •  No Scantron tests, write answers in a test booklet.
  •  Teacher or peer notes and study guides.
  •  Ability to take tests orally when needed.
  •  Ability to dictate written assignments.
  •  Hydration, ability to keep a water bottle at all times.
  •  Bathroom breaks as necessary due to encouraged hydration
  •  Absences: encourage school attendance. However, late arrivals, absences, and leaving early from school due to headache/migraine disease should be excused.

Migraine University is visiting health and wellness fairs at college campuses to help raise awareness and share resources with students living with migraine and headache disorders.

Campuses that have already participated include:

  • University of Alabama
  • Ball State University
  • Clemson University
  • Coastal Carolina University
  • Columbia College, Chicago
  • East Carolina University
  • Liberty University
  • Loyola University-Chicago
  • North Carolina State University
  • Northeastern Illinois University
  • Penn State University
  • Purdue University – Northwest
  • Temple University
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Houston
  • University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of South Florida – Tampa
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • Western Michigan University

More than 42 million people in the United States live with migraine disease and a half million are diagnosed with Cluster Headache. Yet those who have these diseases often feel isolated and alone. We want to raise awareness by sharing stories to show that if you have migraine disease or another headache disorder, you are not alone.

Submit Your Story

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Consider starting a club on campus for students living with migraine disease and headache disorders.

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Migraines Force Sufferers to Do Their Homework

By Lesley Alderman

  • Jan. 29, 2010

MIGRAINES may be right up there with root canals and childbirth as one of life’s more painful experiences. But unlike childbirth or dental surgery — the pain of which can be dulled with standard medications — migraines are notoriously tricky to treat.

Those who suffer from these disabling headaches often try a dozen or so medications before they find something that works. What’s more, many migraines do not get properly diagnosed, according to the doctors and researchers I spoke with. That can lead to a lot of extra pain — and expense — for the afflicted.

A reason migraines are so maddeningly elusive is that they are not simply bad headaches. They stem from a genetic disorder (yes, you have your parents to blame) that afflicts 36 million Americans and manifests as a group of symptoms that besides head pain may include dizziness, visual disturbances, numbness and nausea.

Some of the symptoms resemble those from other disorders, like sinus headaches, epilepsy, eye problems or even strokes. And to further complicate matters, sufferers react in varied ways to medications.

“What might be a miracle drug for one person could be a dud for another,” said Dr. Joel Saper, director of the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute, a treatment and research center in Ann Arbor. “There is no universally effective therapy.”

If that sounds murky, one thing is not: early intervention is important. If you get a migraine every few months and can cope by taking an over-the-counter med, great — you’ve got the problem somewhat under control. But if recurring pain is not responding to your own efforts, seek expert help.

“Some early data suggests that if you let headache pain go without treatment it can lower your threshold for pain down the line,” Dr. Saper said. In other words, untreated headaches can make you more vulnerable to pain.

On the other hand, if you are taking over-the-counter or prescription painkillers two to three days a week for months on end, the medications you are taking to dull pain could worsen your condition. You may then start to experience medication-overuse headaches — a risk for migraine sufferers.

Researchers are learning that pain and the medications used to treat pain can potentially change the biology of the brain.

Receiving good treatment can help you function more effectively, and will probably also save you money over the long term. And if you have health insurance, it should cover most of the relevant medical evaluations and treatments.

Here are suggestions for getting help.

EVALUATION If you have chronic or disabling headaches that your primary care physician has not been able to manage, see a neurologist who has expertise in treating headaches.

Be sure to ask beforehand about that expertise. Not all neurologists have experience treating migraines.

You might want to see a certified headache specialist. Doctors with this new certification have passed board exams in their area of specialty as well as one on headaches. You can find a list of the approximately 200 certified headache doctors on the Migraine Research Foundation’s Web site.

Before you make an appointment, ask your potential doctor’s assistant, by phone, a few key questions. Find out about the doctor’s experience. And be sure to ask how long the first meeting will last.

“A good doctor will spend at least an hour with you,” said Dr. David W. Dodick, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona.

It’s important for a doctor to take time to listen to your issues, said Claire Louder, 44, who has had migraines since she was 12. She said she has seen a half-dozen doctors over the years.

“The best ones pay attention to what you say,” said Ms. Louder, who is a chamber of commerce executive in Maryland. “One doctor I saw had a treatment plan in mind before I’d said a word. Then she kept telling me my migraines were due to stress, which was an oversimplification.”

A good doctor should be creative and willing to try a variety of treatments.

At your first visit, the doctor will make sure that your headaches are not caused by an underlying illness, like Lyme disease or a brain tumor. Once the doctor is satisfied that your condition is indeed what are called primary migraines, the doctor will ask you detailed questions about your attacks, take a thorough medical history and probably have you keep a diary of your migraine patterns.

STRATEGIES VARY Be prepared for a multi-tiered approach.

Doctors typically prescribe a triptan drug or an ergot-related drug to help people control infrequent migraine attacks. Both of these drug types influence brain cell reactions that are part of the migraine process.

There are seven types of triptans. Ms. Louder tried five before she found one, rizatriptan — sold under the brand name Maxalt — that worked for her. The best-seller Imitrex (sumatriptan) is available in an affordable generic version.

Triptans are far more popular, but many people who do not respond well to triptans do well with the ergots, such as D.H.E. (dihydroergotamine), Dr. Saper said.

If you have migraines at least weekly your doctor may prescribe a preventative medicine to reduce their frequency of attacks.

“Prescription preventatives are grossly underutilized,” Dr. Dodick said. “They can be extremely effective for some people.”

Preventive medicines, taken every day, include antiseizure drugs, beta blockers and tricyclic antidepressants. Ms. Louder started taking Topomax (topiramate), an antiseizure drug, five years ago and says it has helped to reduce the frequency of her migraines from once a week to once a month.

Your doctor might suggest some natural remedies too — like vitamin B2, coenzyme Q10, magnesium or butterbur, an herb that is sold under the name Petadolex — which some specialists say can help reduce both the frequency and intensity of your headaches. These supplements are not covered by insurers but all are relatively inexpensive.

LIFESTYLE CHANGES “Migraines are built into the biology of the brain,” Dr. Saper said.

Sufferers inherit a hypersensitivity to physical and emotional events — like stress, noise, certain foods and even bad weather. Learning to identify the circumstances that can set off an attack is important in migraine management.

Dr. Dodick said, “Recognizing triggers can prevent attacks from occurring.” After keeping a diary, Ms. Louder learned, for instance, that low-pressure storm systems, meats with nitrates and many other preservatives induced her migraines.

“Migraine patients don’t respond well to change,” Dr. Dodick said.

Sometimes just keeping one’s patterns and habits predictable can reduce attacks. Lack of sleep, erratic schedules and lots of plane rides are disorienting for even the hardiest people, but they can literally send migraine sufferers to their beds, or worse, to the E.R.

How to Deal With Headaches and Migraines

Are you looking for relief from your symptoms we can help..

Why do women get more headaches than men?  Hormones may be the most obvious culprit, but other factors can be at play too.

A morning headache can ruin your entire day. Here are the most common causes and ways to find relief .

Wondering if carbs and sugar are giving you headaches? You may be thinking about it the wrong way .

Migraines are the second-most disabling condition in the world . Yet, many people who experience them don’t realize it. Here is how to recognize the symptoms .

Hoping to alleviate that excruciating migraine pain? These are your treatment options . Yoga  and a diet  high in omega-3 fatty acids may also help.

For children and teens dealing with migraine attacks, there are now acute and preventive therapies that can reduce, if not eliminate, the pain .

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How common are headaches in school age children?

Headaches during the school year can create difficult problems for students, parents, and teachers. Concerns may include how to manage a severe headache at school, relate to peers, cope with homework when it hurts to read, and even whether to attend school or not. Fears of failure or falling behind can emerge when headaches become more frequent or severe. Parents may struggle with whether they should push their children or excuse them from activities. Teachers and administrators may question how to respond and what to reasonably expect in school performance.

Migraine affects 2%-5% of children below the age of 12 and increases to 10% by late adolescence. The percentage of children with frequent or severe headache rises from 1% below the age of 10 to 5% between the ages of 10-17. Headaches sufficient to cause functional impairment affect about 1 out of 10 children between the ages of 9-18.

Headache can affect how well a child does in school. About 37% of children with migraine note poor school performance during headache. Most identify difficulty concentrating in class and on homework. One pediatric practice identified school problems in 46% of their adolescent headache patients. Another recent study found that young headache patients rank "school" among their most potent headache triggers - ahead of "parents" and other common triggers such as weather, lack of sleep, or missed meals. School-related noise and bright lights emerge as a consistent problem for the headache-prone student. Peer problems such as frequent bullying or harassment are also associated with more frequent and severe headaches.

In the 1989 National Health Interview Survey, headache ranked third as a cause of school absence, accounting for over 82,000 days of missed school per week. Children with frequent or severe headaches miss an average of 3.6 school days per year per child. However, about 10% of young people with migraine miss over 2 school days per month, and roughly 1% miss 2 days per week. Children between the ages of 7-17 with chronic daily headache who were treated in a pediatric specialty practice missed an average of 6.3 days per month, or about 57 days over the school year.

When school absences escalate, school attendance and performance can cause as much distress as the headache itself. The student may begin avoiding school or homework due to pain; absences and incomplete assignments increase; the student falls farther behind; peers start asking questions or teasing the student; teachers question the legitimacy of the headaches; and schools may pressure a student about the number of absences. The student may come to believe, "If I have trouble with studying or going to school with a headache, why go at all?" and stop attending. Parents may find themselves in conflict with each other or the school.

In such cases, effective treatment must focus on two areas at the same time: 1) headache control; 2) a plan to manage school-related issues.

How should headaches be handled in the school setting?

For headaches severe enough to interfere with functioning, it is crucial that parents, student, health care providers, and school personnel communicate with each other, and agree on a plan for managing severe headaches. The treating physician should provide the school with a clear diagnosis and a practical headache management plan. If medication is required during the school day, the school needs to understand this as well as the limits on frequency of drug use. Overuse of certain pain medications can lead to analgesic rebound headaches, where headaches increase in frequency and severity as the patient becomes dependent on the drug. Drug use should be closely monitored by parents. In turn, parents need to understand the school's medication policy so they can advocate for their child while working within the system. If possible, a quiet location for relaxation and a brief break from class may help keep the child in school and allow a return to the classroom when the pain is under control.

Should children attend school with severe headaches?

Most headache specialists believe it is important for a young person with frequent headaches to stay in school, normalize activity, and learn to function in the presence of pain even if the pain is severe. Research reveals that the more emotional distress a parent shows to a child in pain, the more upset the child becomes. Compassionate acknowledgment of the pain can be combined with calm but firm expectations about schoolwork and attendance.

The normal parental instinct is to comfort a child in pain. It may seem cruel to force a child to study or attend school with a severe headache. However, students who continue to attend despite the headache learn to conquer headache-related fears, overcome personal obstacles, maintain involvement with their peers, develop a "can do" attitude, and earn the respect of others and themselves. In contrast, students who primarily avoid activities due to pain can become increasingly isolated, depressed, and see themselves as failures.

When attendance and school performance suffer due to frequent, severe headaches, ongoing treatment with a specialist in headache-related behavior should be part of the overall management plan, with an emphasis on developing a return to school plan. In some cases, selecting 1 or 2 classes that the student will consistently attend every day, even when in pain, can serve as a foundation for gradually increasing school involvement.

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How to Relieve & Prevent Headaches & Migraines Fast

Last Updated: April 30, 2024 Fact Checked

This article was medically reviewed by Sari Eitches, MBE, MD and by wikiHow staff writer, Aly Rusciano . Dr. Sari Eitches is an Integrative Internist who runs Tower Integrative Health and Wellness, based in Los Angeles, California. She specializes in plant-based nutrition, weight management, women's health, preventative medicine, and depression. She is a Diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine. She received a BS from the University of California, Berkeley, an MD from SUNY Upstate Medical University, and an MBE from the University of Pennsylvania. She completed her residency at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, NY and served as an attending internist at the University of Pennsylvania. There are 35 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 11,693,133 times.

Is there anything worse than a headache? Whether you have a minor throb or a debilitating migraine, they can be a mood buster. But what if we told you there were plenty of ways to help the pain fade away? In this article, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about getting rid of a headache, from at-home care to over-the-counter medications. With our help, you’ll be able to soothe your head and prevent future headaches from coming on.

Best Ways to Stop a Headache Fast

  • Hold an ice pack against your forehead to relieve pain.
  • Apply a warm compress or take a warm shower.
  • Drink a large glass of water or have a small caffeinated drink.
  • Dim the lights and avoid bright screens.
  • Get some rest and sleep the headache off.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Try diffusing lavender essential oil.

Know the type of headache you’re experiencing.

Not all headaches have the same symptoms or causes.

  • Tension headaches: These are the most common, occurring less than 15 days a month. Often triggered by stress, eye strain, or insomnia, they can cause head pain that lasts around 30 minutes. [2] X Trustworthy Source Cleveland Clinic Educational website from one of the world's leading hospitals Go to source
  • Migraines: These can last from hours to days. They usually cause throbbing pain and sensitivity to light and sound. If you’re having a headache that lasts anywhere between 4 to 72 hours, that’s a migraine.
  • Sinus headaches: These are a common symptom of sinus infections, colds, and seasonal allergies and cause pressure and pain around the nose, eyes, and forehead. [3] X Trustworthy Source Cleveland Clinic Educational website from one of the world's leading hospitals Go to source
  • Rebound headaches: These are caused by the frequent use of pain relievers or anti-migraine drugs.
  • Cluster headaches: These are rare and tend to occur in cycles. They’re classifiable by intense pain around one eye or side of the head.

Drink a large glass of water.

Not drinking enough water can cause headaches.

  • Carry a filled reusable water bottle with you wherever you go so you’re reminded to drink more water .
  • Try to drink room temperature water if you’re prone to migraines, as extremely cold or iced water could trigger symptoms. [7] X Trustworthy Source PubMed Central Journal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of Health Go to source

Place an ice pack on your eyes or head.

A cold compress...

  • Use the cold compress for around 25 minutes, then take a break and see how you feel. [9] X Trustworthy Source PubMed Central Journal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of Health Go to source
  • Try using a cooling eye mask to block out light and soothe pressure.

Take a warm bath or shower.

Warm water can help relax tense muscles and open your sinuses.

  • If bathing isn’t an option, try pressing a heating pad or warm compress to your head.

Dim the lights and turn off screens.

A dark, distraction-free room may help soothe your symptoms.

  • If turning off or dimming the lights isn’t an option, close your eyes or place your head under a blanket or pillow to make your own dark, quiet space.
  • Try using an eye mask to keep things nice and dark no matter what.

Take a nap.

Getting enough sleep...

  • Make sure to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night, as sleep deprivation can trigger headaches.
  • Limit your screen time before bed so you can wind down before closing your eyes.
  • Try to stick to a regular sleep routine, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day (even on weekends). [15] X Trustworthy Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Main public health institute for the US, run by the Dept. of Health and Human Services Go to source

Relax with meditation or yoga.

Stress is one of the leading causes of tension headaches.

  • Try yoga poses like a forward fold, downward facing dog, or head-to-knee for quick relief. [17] X Research source
  • Count your breaths and close your eyes when you feel a headache coming on, rather than focusing on the pounding in your head. [18] X Research source
  • Do deep breathing exercises while you meditate to help calm your mind and nervous system. [19] X Research source

Try over-the-counter medications.

Tylenol...

  • Try to take these medications at the first sign of a headache for faster relief. [21] X Trustworthy Source Cleveland Clinic Educational website from one of the world's leading hospitals Go to source
  • Limit your medication use to 2 days a week, as too much could cause more headaches.

Warning: Taking medication should never be your first choice or your automatic go-to. Do not rely on medicine all the time, instead maybe lean towards other relieving methods first.

Use a lavender essential oil.

The calming smell...

  • Always purchase essential oils from well-known and reputable companies to ensure you get the best quality item.
  • Dilute lavender oil by mixing it with a carrier oil, like coconut or almond oil, in a 1:1 ratio. This will help prevent burns and rashes, especially if you have sensitive skin.

Drink some caffeine.

Taking a small amount of caffeine when your headache starts may help.

  • Try drinking a tea with ginger in it to ease the nausea and vomiting that may come with more severe headaches. [25] X Trustworthy Source PubMed Central Journal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of Health Go to source
  • Be careful when it comes to drinking caffeine, as having too much can cause migraines and possibly a caffeine addiction (which has its own type of headache withdrawals).
  • Doctors recommend having within 150 to 200 mg of caffeine a day, so avoid this method if you’ve already hit your daily allowance. [26] X Trustworthy Source Cleveland Clinic Educational website from one of the world's leading hospitals Go to source

Stay hydrated when drinking alcohol.

Drinking too much alcohol can make you dehydrated.

  • Opt for food with a high water content while and after you drink, like watermelon, celery, and cucumber, to help you stay hydrated .

Try a magnesium supplement.

Magnesium deficiencies can cause migraines in adults.

  • Magnesium deficiency is the most common amongst those who have Type 2 Diabetes, Crohn’s Disease, or are taking medications.
  • Talk to your doctor before adding a magnesium supplement to your daily routine, as they’ll be able to tell you the exact dosage you and your body need.

Watch what you eat.

Chocolate, cheese, and processed foods can trigger headaches.

  • Aged cheese (blue cheese, brie, cheddar, mozzarella)
  • Pizza or other tomato-based products
  • Potato chips
  • Smoked or dried fish
  • Pickled foods
  • Canned soups
  • Cultured dairy products (sour cream, yogurt)
  • Artificial sweeteners

Exercise regularly.

At least 30 minutes of exercise a day can prevent headaches.

  • Who says you have to go to the gym and lift weights to exercise? Move your body in whatever way that feels good! Maybe that’s dancing, walking, running, or swimming.

Try acupressure.

Pressing specific points on your body can help reduce muscular tension.

  • On your hand: Massage the soft part of your hand in between your index finger and thumb. Apply firm, circular pressure for 4 to 5 seconds. [34] X Research source
  • Behind your ear: Locate the mastoid bone just behind your ear, and follow the natural groove in your neck to where the muscles attach to the skull. Apply firm pressure for 4 to 5 seconds while breathing deeply. [35] X Research source
  • On your shoulder: Locate the point on your shoulder between your neck and the edge of your shoulder. Using your opposite hand (right hand on the left shoulder, left hand on the right shoulder), pinch the shoulder muscle between your fingers and thumb. Use your index finger to apply firm downward pressure for 4 to 5 seconds. [36] X Research source

Try acupuncture.

Acupuncture can relax triggered nerves that cause headaches.

Do weekly massage sessions.

Regular massages may help reduce the frequency of headaches.

  • Massages alone won’t cure a headache—it’s simply a preventative step—so make sure you try other methods as well.

Visit a chiropractor.

Spinal manipulation could reduce the pain that triggers chronic headaches.

  • Talk to your chiropractor about your headaches and symptoms, as they can pinpoint if and where the problem is in your back or neck.
  • As an alternative, try osteopathic manipulative treatment, which is similar to chiropractic therapy but focuses on improving the body’s overall system. [41] X Research source

Expert Q&A

Sari Eitches, MBE, MD

Reader Videos

  • Not all headaches are the same. If one fix doesn't get rid of your headache, keep trying other solutions until you find one that works. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

Tips from our Readers

  • Wear soft ear plugs that aren't connected by a thin cord to aid in noise cancellation. If you share a room with someone, ask them to please be quiet and to keep the lights dim while you're recovering.
  • Stay away from too much light. If you want to get rid of a headache fast, stay away from electronics and screens. Even the sun can make your headache worse, so try to stay inside and rest.
  • Take a wash cloth and put it under hot water, wring it out so it doesn't drip then lay down and wrap it around your eyes and temples. Heat relaxes muscles and can help reduce pain.
  • If you are just at the start of getting a headache, avoid sitting up too fast when you're lying down. This can make your headache even worse. Take it nice and slow instead.
  • Massage the back of the neck to get the blood flowing. This helps me when I get migraines before they get really bad.

how to do homework with a headache

  • Avoid taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen if you have an ulcer or gastrointestinal problems, as they can worsen your symptoms. Thanks Helpful 8 Not Helpful 0
  • Get emergency medical treatment if you have sudden numbness or weakness in your face, arm, or leg, become confused, and/or have trouble speaking or understanding people. Thanks Helpful 8 Not Helpful 2
  • If you experience a fast yet incredibly painful headache that lasts about 5 minutes, this is could be a thunderclap headache, which often signal a serious issue. Contact your doctor immediately. [42] X Trustworthy Source Cleveland Clinic Educational website from one of the world's leading hospitals Go to source Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

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Use Reflexology for Migraines

  • ↑ https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9639-headaches#management-and-treatment
  • ↑ https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9641-sinus-headaches#management-and-treatment
  • ↑ Sari Eitches, MBE, MD. Sleep Specialist. Expert Interview. 3 April 2020.
  • ↑ https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/headaches#prevented
  • ↑ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908954/
  • ↑ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11442559/
  • ↑ https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003024.htm
  • ↑ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1697736/
  • ↑ https://headaches.org/hot-and-cold-packs-showers/
  • ↑ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15985108/
  • ↑ https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/sleep_hygiene.html
  • ↑ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16897622/
  • ↑ https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/yoga-by-benefit/headache/
  • ↑ https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/understanding-migraine-cattreatmentmindfulness-meditation-migraine/
  • ↑ https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation-in-depth
  • ↑ https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2019/november/migraines-vs-headaches
  • ↑ https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/9652-headache-medicine
  • ↑ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22517298/
  • ↑ https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/aromatherapy-do-essential-oils-really-work
  • ↑ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5655397/
  • ↑ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4818021/
  • ↑ https://health.clevelandclinic.org/study-reveals-that-caffeine-can-actually-prevent-migraines/
  • ↑ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7551876/
  • ↑ https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/magnesium-deficiency
  • ↑ https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9648-headaches-and-food
  • ↑ http://exploreim.ucla.edu/wellness/acupressure-for-headache-or-neck-and-shoulder-tension/
  • ↑ http://exploreim.ucla.edu/chinese-medicine/acupressure-point-li4/
  • ↑ http://exploreim.ucla.edu/chinese-medicine/acupressure-point-gb20/
  • ↑ http://exploreim.ucla.edu/chinese-medicine/acupressure-point-gb21/
  • ↑ https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/understanding-migraineacupuncture-and-migraine-finding-a-combination-that-sticks/
  • ↑ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3099267/
  • ↑ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16827629/
  • ↑ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21640251
  • ↑ https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/spinal-manipulation-what-you-need-to-know
  • ↑ https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17876-thunderclap-headaches

About This Article

Sari Eitches, MBE, MD

Medical Disclaimer

The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis, or treatment. You should always contact your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional before starting, changing, or stopping any kind of health treatment.

Read More...

If you’re suffering from a headache, there are some tricks you can try for fast-acting relief. Close your eyes and inhale for a count of 5, then exhale for a count of 5. Keep breathing like this until your headache subsides. Massage your temples or the back of your neck at the same time for extra relief. Placing a cold compress over your eyes or forehead can also help, especially if you have a migraine. For a tension headache, hold a heating pack against your head or neck, or take a warm bath or shower. Caffeine can also get rid of a headache, so try drinking some caffeinated tea or coffee. Even just drinking water can ease a headache if you’re feeling dehydrated. If your headache persists, take a break from what you’re doing and do something relaxing, like yoga or meditation. Dim the lights and shut off any screens since bright light can make headaches worse. Applying peppermint oil to your temples and inhaling lavender oil can provide quick headache relief and help you relax. Finally, consider taking an over-the-counter pain reliever like Tylenol or Advil if natural methods aren’t helping. To learn how to get rid of a headache with natural remedies like ginger and tea, read the article! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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University of Saskatchewan

Headaches and Migraines

Nearly all headaches experienced by college students are Tension-type headaches (TTHs). TTHs may be caused by tightening muscles in the back of the neck and/or scalp. It is no surprise that these headaches are the most common type among college students as students are constantly sitting in strained positions (e.g., sitting in uncomfortable lecture chairs while hunching over a book to catch up on readings).

Tension-type Headaches

Three types of tension-type headaches.

  • Episodic: infrequent and random – less than one day a month
  • Frequent – 1-14 days a month
  • Chronic – more than 15 days a month
  • Typically, a dull, aching, and non-pulsating pain on both sides of the head
  • Head, neck, and shoulder muscle tenderness
  • Pain that occurs in the forehead, temples, or the back of the head and/or neck
  • Stress and/or anxiety
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Skipping meals
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Anger and/or depression
  • Eye, neck, or back strain

Episodic Tension-type Headaches

This type of headache can be treated with over-the-counter analgesics such as aspirin, Tylenol, Advil, or Aleve. If ineffective on its own, you can add a small dose of caffeine. A warm pack on the neck may also relieve the headache.

Frequent/Chronic Tension-type Headaches

See a health professional for diagnosis and consideration of preventive treatment such as amitriptyline (an anticonvulsant). They are used because they have an analgesic (pain killer) property. Some may be prescribed for those who have sleep disturbances.

Migraine Headaches

Genetics play a role in migraine headaches. If one of your parents suffers from migraines you have a 25-50% chance of getting migraines. That increases to 70% if both of your parents suffer from migraines. (webmd.com)

Migraine headaches can last from hours to days and frequency can vary depending on triggers.

Migraine headache symptoms may include: nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light, noise, and odors.

Women experience migraine headaches more often than men. This may be caused by the woman’s menstrual cycle. 60% of female migraine sufferers can relate the attack to their menstrual cycle. (nhf.com)

Initially, try to treat your migraine with an OTC pain (e.g., Advil or Tylenol) and an anti-nausea (e.g., Gravol) medication. If those do not work see a health care professional to discuss options. You may be prescribed triptans (to constrict blood vessels) or preventive medication like beta-blockers. Cold packs can be used on the forehead and temples. Apply for 15 minutes at a time with 15 minute breaks in between.

“Sinus Headaches”

“Sinus headaches” can refer to headaches caused by acute sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses). These are associated with nasal congestion, nasal discharge, fever, pain, and tenderness over the affected sinus, with a deep dull ache that is exaggerated by head movements. A health care professional should be seen if you think you are experiencing a sinus infection as they will need to determine the proper course of action.

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches have severe, debilitating pain on one side of the head and are often present with a watery eye, nasal congestion, or a runny nose on the same side of the face. Cluster headaches appear suddenly and can recur for weeks or months, then disappear for months or years.

Treatment for cluster headaches should be reviewed with a health care professional. They will start medication therapy as early as possible after the headache appears to reduce the length of the cluster period and decrease the severity of the headaches.

Medications can include corticosteroids and antiepileptics (anti-seizure). Over-the-counter (OTC) medications have little effect. These medications are slowly tapered off and then discontinued as the headaches decrease and disappear.

Tips for Headache Relief

  • Take frequent breaks while studying to give your eyes, neck, and back a break.
  • Use an ergonomic chair.
  • Use a non-glare screen over your computer.
  • Pain medications are more effective at the beginning, so take medication as soon as possible.
  • Have caffeine in moderation (maximum: 400 mg per day) as caffeine withdrawal causes headaches.
  • Eat something or drink something high in sugar
  • Hydrate with water
  • Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.
  • Maintain regular sleep (at least seven hours per night).
  • Eat a meal or snack every 3-4 waking hours.
  • Practice deep breathing exercises, yoga, or meditation to help relax and relieve daily stress and anxiety.
  • Have a neck massage to help with muscle tension.
  • Monitor time spent in front of a TV/computer screen and reduce it if you are experiencing headaches.
  • www.webmd.com
  • National Headache Foundation

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Is Working From Home Giving You a Headache or Migraine Attack?

Becky Upham

For people with jobs that allow it, working from home has become mainstream in recent years. While most Americans don’t have a job that can be done remotely, among those who do have these jobs, 35 percent work from home all the time, and 41 percent work from home on some days, according to the Pew Research Center .

Working from home can have its perks (attending meetings in sweatpants, anyone?), but sometimes trying to get work done in your home environment can be a headache — literally.

“My experience, and what I’ve heard from other physicians, is that a lot of people are reporting worsening of their tension headaches and migraine ” when working from home more often, says Katherine Hamilton, MD , a neurologist and headache specialist at MedStar Health in Washington, DC.

“I think there are numerous reasons that we’re seeing that,” Dr. Hamilton adds.

Too Much Screen Time May Mean More Frequent Headaches

Working from home and attending meetings virtually, rather than in person, can mean spending almost the entire workday looking at a screen — in addition to the screen time you log when you’re not at work.

For people who work from home, “the average person is spending more than 13 hours on digital devices during the course of a day,” says Paul Karpecki, OD , a member of the vision health advisory board at Eyesafe, a company that develops technology to filter out blue light from electronic displays.

“If you have any potential issue that can cause headaches, it’s more likely to come out in a situation like that, where you put that much strain on the system,” Dr. Karpecki adds.

Both migraine attacks and tension headaches — the most common type of headache — can be triggered by environmental factors and changes in your routine, according to Hamilton. Migraine attacks tend to be more debilitating, with symptoms such as throbbing pain, nausea , and sensitivity to light and sound.

It’s estimated that between 85 and 90 percent of people with migraine experience sensitivity to light, particularly the blue-tinted light that’s most commonly emitted from phone and computer screens, according to the American Migraine Foundation .

There are a few things you can do if you think extra screen time is giving you more headaches, says Karpecki.

  • Try to limit your screen time to daylight hours. Research shows that exposure to blue light can change your natural circadian rhythm and disrupt your sleep schedule .
  • Consider using technology like Eyesafe — in a screen protector, for example — that filters out blue light.
  • Give your eyes a chance to relax by periodically (every 20 minutes or so) moving your gaze to something farther away, which can reduce eyestrain.
  • Take occasional breaks to keep your eyes moist. Blink rates go down about 75 percent when we’re on digital devices, says Karpecki.

RELATED: That Burning Sensation in Your Eyes? It May Be CVS, Computer Vision Syndrome

Poor Positioning or Posture Can Cause Tension

Many people don’t have an ideal home office setup with a properly positioned keyboard and computer monitor, Hamilton notes. That can mean poor body positioning or posture, which can increase the likelihood of a migraine attack or tension-type headache. “When you’re on your laptop, you can end up hunching forward more, which can lead to tension in your neck and shoulders,” she says.

Optimizing the ergonomics (positioning or layout) of your home office to make it more comfortable and to encourage better posture can go a long way, says Hamilton. “Ideally, you want to have a setup where you are able to take an upright posture so you’re able to look straight ahead at your computer if you can,” she says. That may mean adjusting your desk or table, or using books or other props to get optimum positioning. “This can help you avoid the position where your head is forward and your shoulders are hunched,” Hamilton notes.

Even if your posture is great, taking breaks to stretch is a good idea, especially for your shoulder and neck muscles, she adds.

RELATED: How to Beat ‘Tech Neck’ — and Why It’s So Bad for Your Health

Lack of Sleep and Changes in Diet Can Trigger Migraine Attacks

Departures from your normal routine can be a big factor in headaches and migraine attacks, Hamilton notes. “I explain to my patients that the migraine brain likes things to be as steady and stable as possible, which can be especially challenging” for some people who work from home, she says.

“For example, if you’re not going into the office, you may be going to bed and getting up at different times and sleeping too much or too little,” Hamilton adds. Both too little and too much sleep can trigger a headache.

Changes in meal schedules and caffeine intake can be an issue too, according to Hamilton. She advises people to establish a regular routine for sleeping, eating, and exercising when working from home. “It’s okay if that routine is not exactly the same as what you did before you worked from home. The idea is just to maintain it consistently,” she says. Hamilton suggests the following tips to reduce the likelihood of a migraine attack and improve your overall well-being.

  • Go to bed and wake up around the same time.
  • If you drink coffee, keep your intake consistent from one day to the next, and make sure it’s not interfering with your ability to sleep at night.
  • Have regular meals at around the same time every day.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day.

RELATED: 6 Smart Tips for Staying Hydrated Throughout the Day

Could Something in My House Be Giving Me a Headache?

Migraine attacks and headaches can be triggered by things in your environment, so it’s possible that something in your house is part of the problem. Here are some possibilities to investigate.

  • Check the light. Migraine attacks are often associated with photophobia , or light sensitivity. If you’re experiencing photophobia, avoid fluorescent or flickering lights. Even bright natural light can be bothersome, so if you’re sensitive to it, you may want to keep your window blinds at least partially closed during the brightest times of the day.
  • Eliminate strong odors. Any strong odor, from scented soaps, lotions, or candles, perfumes, cleaning products, cigarette smoke, and even foods can trigger a migraine attack , or headache . To avoid bothersome odors, purchase unscented personal care and household products whenever possible, and ask the members of your household to do the same.
  • Beware of dry air and dehydration. Indoor heating can dry out the air you’re breathing and dehydrate you as well, and headache and dizziness can be symptoms of dehydration .

RELATED: Why Dehydration Is Still a Risk During the Wintertime

How Do I Get Immediate Relief From a Headache?

No medication can take away the pain of a migraine attack or tension-type headache 100 percent of the time, but there are many effective treatment options. Talk with your doctor about which therapy will safely relieve your pain as quickly as possible so that you can return to work and the activities you enjoy.

  • Analgesics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can provide short-term relief for tension headaches and migraine pain, and they usually don’t require a prescription. These include medications such as aspirin , ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) , and acetaminophen (Tylenol) . While they are generally safe to use to treat short, acute headaches, they should not be taken for chronic pain without discussing their use with your healthcare team.
  • Triptans are a class of prescription drugs that were developed to treat migraine attacks. If you feel an attack coming on, these drugs will be more effective if you take them early, while the pain is still moderate, according to the American Migraine Foundation .
  • Gepants and ditans are newer kinds of acute migraine medications that target very specific receptors on sensory nerves. They may offer an alternative to people who can’t take triptans or don’t benefit from them.
  • Integrative and complementary therapies such as acupuncture , physical therapy, mind-body approaches like mindfulness, and certain supplements have various degrees of evidence and safety profiles supporting their use for the management of tension headaches and migraine symptoms .

RELATED: How to Get Rid of a Headache or Migraine Attack Fast

Physical Activity May Reduce Stress and Headaches

Hamilton recommends that her patients with migraine get regular exercise, which can decrease stress as well as improve sleep and mood.

“Physical activity can have benefits if people have a lot of neck tension or tension-type headaches. Activities like yoga can loosen up the muscles and help you relax,” she says.

If you can’t get out and run or walk, try to take advantage of the various online tips, videos, and other resources for exercise to help you keep moving and stick with a routine, Hamilton suggests. “I recommend a half hour or so of exercise at least five times a week if possible,” she says.

How Do I Tell My Boss I Have a Headache Disorder?

Headaches and migraine attacks are among the top reasons why people miss work. According to the World Health Organization , migraine on its own is the sixth-biggest cause worldwide of years lost due to disability, and headache disorders collectively are third highest.

If you need to take some time off to cope with a headache or migraine attack, the wellness community website Migraine Again suggests that you briefly explain your diagnosis to your work supervisor, and state that you plan to resume your work and make up for what you missed as soon as your symptoms subside.

If you are regularly missing work and you have three or more severe migraine days a month, talk with your healthcare provider. You may be a candidate to take a preventive medication .

Let your boss know that you are making lifestyle modifications and working on a treatment plan with your primary care doctor or neurologist. Your employer may be more understanding when you do need to take time off for a migraine attack if they know that you’re being proactive about preventing and treating attacks.

Additional reporting by Quinn Phillips .

Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking

Everyday Health follows strict sourcing guidelines to ensure the accuracy of its content, outlined in our editorial policy . We use only trustworthy sources, including peer-reviewed studies, board-certified medical experts, patients with lived experience, and information from top institutions.

  • Parker K. About a Third of U.S. Workers Who Can Work From Home Now Do So All the Time. Pew Research Center . March 30, 2023.
  • Photophobia (Light Sensitivity) and Migraine. American Migraine Foundation . December 21, 2017.
  • Tähkämö L et al. Systematic Review of Light Exposure Impact on Human Circadian Rhythm. Chronobiology International . October 12, 2018.
  • Oral and Intranasal Triptans for Migraine. American Migraine Foundation . September 2, 2021.
  • Headache Disorders. World Health Organization . April 8, 2016.
  • Dumas P. Calling in Sick? Good Conversations About Migraine at Work. Migraine Again . June 1, 2022.

Where are Migraines Located? Types of Headaches and Migraine Areas

  • Coping with Illness

This article was reviewed by our Baystate Health team to ensure medical accuracy.

James A.D. Otis, MD

We’ve all been there. Just trying to get through the day when a headache  sets in. It may be a constant dull ache that comes on slowly or it may be so sudden and so severe as to make you cringe at light or sound. Or maybe it’s something else entirely. Regardless of how they feel, all headaches are your body’s way of alerting you that something is wrong.

What is a headache?

While a headache feels like a pain inside your brain, it’s not. In fact, your brain has no pain receptors so it can’t even feel pain. Most headaches begin in pain-sensing nerves of the muscles and blood vessels that surround your head, neck, and face. They can be triggered by stress, muscle tension, allergens, sleep deprivation, dehydration, and countless other things. Different triggers create different types of pain and symptoms.

The key to treating a headache is understanding what type you have, what’s triggering it, and addressing that specific issue.

Types of headaches

The International Headache Society has classified over 200 different types of headaches in two specific categories:

1. Primary Headache:

"Primary headache" means that the headache is the main medical problem (this type makes up more than 90% of headaches).

2. Secondary Headache:

"Secondary headache" means that the headache is a symptom of another medical issue ranging from minor (think sinus infection) to serious (think stroke).

The majority of headaches fall into the primary category, the most common being migraines, tension headaches, cluster headaches, and sinus pain.

Do you have a primary headache or a secondary headache?

Determining what type of headache you have and how to treat it.

Knowing what type of headache you have is critical to finding relief and potentially preventing them in the future. Diagnosing  a headache involves a medical evaluation and may include diagnostic testing.

Common evaluation questions include:

  • When do your headaches occur?
  • What is the location of the headache?
  • What do the headaches feel like?
  • How long do the headaches last?
  • Have there been changes in behavior or personality?
  • Do changes in position or sitting up cause the headache?
  • Do you have trouble sleeping?
  • Do you have a history of stress?
  • Is there a history of head injury?

If your doctor determines what you are experiencing is a secondary headache and  not a primary headache, diagnostic tests may be done to find the cause. These include:

  • Blood tests
  • Sinus X-rays
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Computed tomography scan (also called a CT or CAT scan) Knowing what type of headache you have is critical to finding relief.   Click to Tweet

Diagnosis and Treatment for the Most Common Types of Headaches

As Dr. James Otis , a Baystate Health Neurologist and Associate Professor of Neurology at UMASS CHAN Medical School – Baystate notes, the majority of headaches experienced are diagnosed as primary headaches.

Here, he breaks down the four most common types, including symptoms, causes, and potential treatment options.

A migraine is a headache that can cause severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on one side of the head. Migraine attacks can last hours or even days with pain can so severe that it interferes with daily activities.

Migraines are different from other types of headaches in that they have distinct phases.

Migraine Phases

While not all people experience each phase, the typical progression of migraine phases include:

  • Premonitory or prodromal phase is the initial phase of a migraine and can lasts a few hours or days and usually precedes a headache by one to two days. Symptoms include irritability, food cravings, sensitivity to light or sound, fatigue, difficulty speaking or reading, and increased need to urinate.
  • Aura phase occurs just before the onset of a headache and includes visual, sensory, or motor symptoms. Vision disturbances may include temporary loss of sight and hallucinations. Sensory symptoms often include tingling that begins in one limb or numbness that travels up your arm over a period of 10 to 20 minutes. For some people, the tingling or numbness can spread to one side of your face and tongue. The aura phase may also include changes in speech and general muscle weakness.
  • Headache phas e is the period during the actual headache. This phase lasts somewhere between 4 to 72 hours and is characterized by pain on one or both sides of the head. Sufferers may experience the pain as throbbing, drilling, or burning. Other common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and motion, depression, fatigue, insomnia, neck pain and stiffness, and anxiety.
  • Resolution phase , often called the “migraine hangover,” is experienced by 80% of migraine sufferers but may not be experienced after every migraine. During this phase, the pain lessens but is often replaced with fatigue, dizziness, irritability, ongoing sensitivity to light, and trouble concentrating.

Migraine Causes

Causes of migraines vary and can be hard to pinpoint. It is recommended you visit with your primary care physician first who then may refer you to a neurologist to help determine the cause of your migraine, such as:

  • Changes in serotonin levels
  • Specific sounds, lights or odors
  • A specific food
  • Changes in the weather
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Family history of migraines
  • Skipping meals or dehydration

One of the best ways to prevent migraines is to avoid known triggers. Keeping a headache diary can help identify the specific causes or your migraines.

In addition, there are numerous medications available to treat migraines. These include pain-relieving medications and preventative medications.

Your treatment choices depend upon the frequency and severity of your headaches, whether you have nausea and vomiting with your headaches, how disabling your headaches are, and other medical conditions you have. Some of these medications are not safe to take during pregnancy. If you're pregnant or trying to get pregnant, don't use any of these medications without first talking with your doctor.

Talk to the Baystate Neurology  team about your headaches: 413-794-5600

Tension headaches.

The most common type of headache, a tension headache typically starts later in the day and lasts at least half an hour. Often experienced with tightness in the neck, shoulders and jaw, common symptoms of tension headaches include:

  • Pressure, tightness, or a band squeezing your head, and typically affects both sides
  • A dull, non-throbbing pain located at the back of the neck, forehead, cheeks, behind both eyes, or, all over the head
  • Sufferers often experience trouble sleeping and focusing, irritability, and muscle aches.

While the specific cause of tension-type headaches is not known, stress and poor sleep  are the most commonly-reported trigger. It’s best to treat tension headaches soon after they begin when the symptoms are still mild. The goal is to ease your pain and prevent more of them from happening.

Common treatments include over-the-counter painkillers such as acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. It’s important to follow the dosing instructions for each medication careful to avoid “rebound headache.” Brought on by the overuse of medication, rebound headaches can trigger a vicious cycle of headaches brought on by the medication intended to treat them. Rebound headaches are difficult to treat and can severely impact one’s quality of life.

If over-the-counter pain relievers don't provide relief, your doctor may prescribe a stronger medication.

Cluster Headaches

A cluster headache is identified as a severe headache that comes on quickly. Cluster headaches occur in spurts or “clusters,” where you may have headaches regularly for a few weeks or months and then none for some time. Cluster headaches are usually located behind one eye or on one side of the head.

Other symptoms of a cluster headache are:

  • A red, teary eye, a smaller pupil and/or a drooping eyelid on the side of your head that you are experiencing pain
  • Puffiness around one or both eyes
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • A flushed or warm face
  • Restlessness

While the exact cause of this type of headache is unknown, cluster headache patterns suggest that abnormalities in the body's biological clock (hypothalamus) may play a role. Other possible triggers include the use of medications such as nitroglycerin, a drug used to treat heart disease. Once a cluster period begins, drinking alcohol may quickly trigger a splitting headache.

Cluster headache treatments involves a two-part approach: the first aims to stop or reduce the immediate pain and the second to prevent future attacks.

The first part of the treatment, ideally administered as soon as the headache hits, may include high-dose oxygen therapy (inhaling high-flow oxygen through a mask) via a face mask and injections of pain medicine.

The second part of treatment may include daily medications such as calcium channel blockers and corticosteroids, as well as nerve block injections, all of which are proven effective for warding off future attacks.

Sinus Headaches

Sinus infections cause swelling and pressure in your sinuses, which leads to sinus pain. Normally, these air-filled cavities located behind your nose and eyes allow air to circulate throughout the nasal passages and mucus to freely drain. However, when they become inflamed, mucus becomes trapped. As pressure builds, it causes pain that ranges from dull to severe. You can also feel like you have sinus pain when you actually have a migraine.

Often accompanied by cold-like symptoms, sinus discomfort may include:

  • Increasing pain if you lean forward, move suddenly, or lie down
  • Stuffy nose
  • Aching in your upper teeth
  • Thick, yellow or green nasal discharge
  • Pain that’s worse in the morning
  • Pain that increases when exposed to sudden temperature changes
  • A sore throat and postnasal drip

Because sinus pain is often the result of an infection, it is best treated by your primary care physician. Treatment options frequently include antibiotics, antihistamines, decongestants, nasal steroid sprays, or pain relievers. If medications don’t improve your symptoms, surgery may be recommended.

There are steps sufferers can take to find relief while waiting for medication to take effect. These include:

  • Drinking more fluids
  • Using a humidifier or vaporizer to moisten the air
  • Using a saltwater nasal spray
  • Applying a warm, wet towel to your face

Other Causes of Headaches

Other causes of a general dull-feeling headache, not attributed the above tension headache can include:

  • Straining your eyes
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Caffeine withdrawal
  • Injury or trauma
  • Strenuous exercise
  • Hunger or dehydration
  • Brain freeze from eating or drinking cold food
  • Rebound: a headache that appears after stopping an anti-headache medication
  • Jaw problems
  • Fever, flu or common cold
  • Menstruation

At-home and alternative therapies for headaches

In addition to the treatment options noted above, some headache sufferers find relief from simple home treatments and more involved alternative therapies. Common home treatments include:

  • Using an ice pack on your forehead, scalp, or neck
  • Taking OTC meds like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen
  • Ingesting caffeine
  • Spending time in a dark, quiet room

Several alternative or complementary therapies found to provide relief or even prevent attacks in some individuals include:

  • Osteopathy: involves the manipulation and soft tissue techniques on the head, neck, and upper back
  • Biofeedback and relaxation: helps you control how muscle groups react to stress and may help prevent or relieve tension headaches
  • Acupuncture: the practice of placing thin needles at specific points on the body, acupuncture has been shown to relieve tension and migraine headaches for some people
  • Mind-body medicine: includes deep breathing, visualization, meditation, and yoga can help relieve pain by helping you deal with stress. These therapies are particularly helpful for tension headaches. In addition, hypnosis may lower your perception of pain and reduce suffering.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: combines meditation and relaxation with education in motivation, behavior, and how to handle emotions. With the help of a psychotherapist, this approach may help you avoid tension-type and migraine headaches
  • Botulinum toxin : best known as Botox, this treatment has been medically proven to prevent chronic migraine headaches in adults

When to Seek Emergency Help for a Headache

If you have a headache that could be described by the “worst headache of your life” or a “thunderclap” feeling, you could be experiencing a stroke, brain aneurysm, or brain hemorrhage and you should call 911 immediately.

Other reasons that may indicate the need for emergency treatment include:

  • A headache that lasts more than 72 hours with less than a solid four-hour pain-free period while awake
  • A headache that persists, continues to get worse, or won’t stop
  • The characteristics of your headaches change
  • The symptoms of your migraine attacks change
  • If you are taking pain relievers more than two days a week
  • Coughing, sneezing, bending over, exercise or sexual activity cause headaches

If you are experiencing a headache after injuring your head, especially if you lost consciousness when injured, you could have a concussion  causing blood to form on the brain. This is called hematoma and needs emergency help. Other signs of hematoma include:

  • One eye pupil is larger than the other
  • Inability to wake up or stay awake
  • The headache continues to get worse
  • Slurred speech
  • Weakness or numbness in the body
  • Loss of balance or clumsiness
  • Loss of movement (paralysis) on the opposite side of the body from the head injury
  • Repeated vomiting, convulsions or seizure
  • Unusual behavior, increased confusion, restlessness, or agitation

It’s important to note that while you may develop signs and symptoms of a hematoma immediately after suffering an injury to your head, they may take weeks or longer to appear. For this reason, if you experience a head injury, ask someone to keep an eye on you. Memory loss caused by the blow to your head can cause you to forget about the injury. Someone other than you may be more likely to recognize the warning signs and get you medical attention you need.

Learn More About Headaches and Health Problems That Cause Headaches

If you are concerned about any headache pain you are experiencing, contact Baystate Health Neurology . We can help you determine what’s causing your suffering and recommend the best approach to achieving short- and long-term relief.

Call 413-794-5600 to make an appointment, or find a neurologist near you:

Find a provider, dr. otis on headache types.

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Dr. James Otis, neurologist, Baystate Neurology, break down the different types of headaches you might experience on any given day.

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When Should You Worry About a Headache?

Types and causes.

  • Serious Symptoms

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Next in Headache Guide What Is a Headache?

Most headaches are not a cause for alarm or unnecessary worry. That said, a severe headache, or a headache associated with specific symptoms like a high fever or a new neurologic deficit (alteration of brain, nerve, or muscle function), may be a sign of a potentially life-threatening condition like a brain infection or stroke.

Other scenarios like a new headache in pregnancy or a headache changing in pattern also warrant further investigation.

This article explains some of the key headache symptoms that should alert you to seek medical attention. It also provides an overview of headache types and basic treatment and preventive strategies.

Illustration by Joules Garcia for Verywell Health

Most headaches are primary headaches , meaning they exist on their own and are not caused by an underlying health problem.

The most common types of primary headaches are:

  • Migraine is an intense, throbbing headache often associated with nausea, vomiting, and light/noise sensitivity that can last up to 72 hours .
  • Tension-type headaches cause a dull, "band-like" tightening or pressure sensation on both sides of the head and can last anywhere from 30 minutes to seven days.
  • Cluster headaches cause an excruciating stabbing or burning pain in or around the eye or temple on one side and last between 15 and 180 minutes. Associated symptoms include eye redness and tearing, stuffy nose, and sweating.

It's likely that most primary headaches arise from a complex interplay of factors (e.g., genetics, structural brain changes, and/or sensitization of pain pathways). Environmental factors, such as stress, lack of sleep, weather changes, alcohol intake, and menstruation, also appear to contribute to headache development.

Unlike primary headaches, secondary headaches arise from an underlying condition or situation (e.g., illness, pregnancy, or medication). Most secondary headaches are not serious or dangerous, except in rare instances.

Examples of less serious (typically) secondary headaches include:

  • Sinus headaches stem from sinus inflammation/infection and are usually associated with thick nasal green or yellow discharge.
  • Post-infectious headaches are usually caused by viruses like the common cold , flu , or COVID-19 .
  • Cold-stimulus headaches, also known as ice-cream or brain freeze headaches , occur after eating cold foods or exposing the unprotected head to low temperatures.
  • Cervicogenic headaches are caused by a bone, joint, or soft tissue problem in the neck.

Serious Headaches and Symptoms

While not a complete list, here are examples of possible serious causes and symptoms of a secondary headache. These are conditions for which you should seek out a medical opinion urgently or get emergency medical help.

A stroke develops when blood flow to the brain is cut off. There are two types of strokes— ischemic and hemorrhagic —and both may cause a headache:

  • Ischemic stroke   occurs when an artery that supplies blood to the brain becomes clogged.
  • Hemorrhagic stroke  occurs when an artery in the brain breaks open and starts bleeding within or around the brain.

A headache from an ischemic stroke is more common in younger patients, those with migraine, and those who have had a larger stroke. The headache classically resembles a tension headache and develops around the same time as the neurological deficit (e.g., weakness or numbness on one side of the body or slurred speech).

A common example of a hemorrhagic stroke is a subarachnoid hemorrhage . This type of brain bleed classically causes a thunderclap headache —an explosive headache that comes on suddenly and becomes severely painful within seconds or less than one minute.

Besides a subarachnoid hemorrhage, a thunderclap headache may also occur with other serious health conditions, including:

  • Reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (blood vessels in the brain suddenly narrow)
  • Cervical artery dissection (formation of a tear in the wall of the carotid or vertebral artery in the neck)
  • Pituitary apoplexy (bleeding into or loss of blood supply to the pituitary gland, located in the brain)

Brain Infection

The combination of a headache and fever may indicate a type of brain infection such as:

  • Meningitis : Inflammation of the meninges, the protective coverings around the brain and spinal cord.
  • Encephalitis : Inflammation of the brain tissues.
  • Brain abscess : When a collection of infected fluid builds up in the brain.

Besides a fever and headache, other potential symptoms of a brain infection include:

  • Neck stiffness
  • Altered consciousness or loss of consciousness

Brain Tumor

A brain tumor is a collection of abnormal cells that grows in the brain. While headache is a common (and may be the only or worst) symptom of a brain tumor, keep in mind that brain tumors are overall rare occurrences.

The headache from a brain tumor may feel like a migraine or tension-type headache and tends to worsen with coughing or bending over .

A headache from a brain tumor may also be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. This tends to result from increased intracranial pressure (ICP) or hydrocephalus—when there is too much cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain.

Brain Injury

A headache may occur within days after a traumatic brain injury , such as a concussion . Post-traumatic headaches often feel like a dull, aching sensation felt all over and may be accompanied by dizziness, fatigue, problems with concentration and memory, and irritability.

Post-traumatic headaches due to concussion are generally not attributable to a structural cause, but occasionally can be caused by abnormal blood collections within the skull caused by head or neck trauma.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Below are worrisome signs that your headache may be stemming from a serious underlying condition.

Seek medical attention right away if:

  • Your headache is severe and starts suddenly.
  • Your headache occurs with fever, stiff neck, seizures, fainting, confusion, or neurological symptoms like weakness or numbness.
  • Your headache is accompanied by a painful red eye or tenderness near the temples.
  • Your headache pattern is changing (e.g., becoming more frequent) or interfering with daily activities.
  • Your headache is triggered by sneezing, coughing, or exercising.
  • Your headache occurs after a blow or injury to the head.
  • You are experiencing a new headache or a change in headache during pregnancy  or immediately after giving birth.
  • You have a headache and a history of cancer or a weakened immune system (e.g., HIV/AIDS ).
  • You are age 65 and over and are experiencing a new type of headache.
  • Your headaches are accompanied by painkiller overuse (indicative of possible medication overuse headache ).

The treatment of headaches depend on the type and severity.

Primary Headaches

Most primary headaches can be treated with a combination of medication and home remedies.

For example, tension-type headaches can often be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like Tylenol (acetaminophen) or the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) Advil (ibuprofen). Soaking in a warm bath or drinking a caffeinated beverage may also be helpful.

Likewise, mild to moderate migraines are often treated with NSAIDs. A class of oral drugs known as  triptans —for example, Imitrex (sumatriptan)—is used to treat moderate to severe migraines. For those who cannot tolerate triptans, Reyvow (lasmiditan) may be tried.

Napping in a quiet, dark room and applying a cold compress to the forehead can also be effective in helping to soothe a migraine.

For cluster headaches, oxygen therapy (inhaling high flow oxygen), Imitrex (sumatriptan) injection, and Zomig (zolmitriptan) nasal spray may be used as an acute treatment.

Talk With Your Doctor

Before taking any medication for your headache, talk with your healthcare professional. If you are on a blood thinner or have kidney, liver, or ulcer disease, your doctor will want you to avoid certain OTC drugs or take a lower dose.

Secondary Headaches

The treatment of secondary headaches requires addressing the underlying condition.

For example, a sinus headache may be treated with OTC pain relievers like Tylenol or ibuprofen. Your doctor may also recommend saline nasal sprays and/or a  corticosteroid nasal spray to reduce sinus inflammation. In rare cases of bacterial sinusitis, an antibiotic may be prescribed.

Dangerous secondary headaches like stroke or a brain infection require more intensive care, such as close hospital monitoring, intravenous (IV) medications, and/or surgery.

As with treatment, prevention depends on the type and severity of the headache.

Lifestyle modifications and pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic therapies can help prevent primary headaches.

Migraines, for example, may be prevented by avoiding triggering foods, sounds, and smells, sticking to a regular sleep routine, and engaging in certain therapies like acupuncture . For patients with chronic migraine, Botox or taking a preventive medication may be recommended.

For patients with cluster headaches, a preventive medication, like Calan (verapamil) , may be advised. Adopting certain lifestyle behaviors like smoking cessation is also usually recommended.

Depending on the underlying cause, certain types of secondary headaches may be prevented.

For example, a stroke may be prevented by ensuring that risk factors like high blood pressure and high cholesterol are under control.

Likewise, a post-traumatic headache may be prevented by wearing a helmet during potentially high-impact sports or recreational activities.

Headaches that result from viral infections like the cold or flu can be prevented by washing your hands frequently and getting vaccinated, when applicable.

Most headaches are not anything to worry about and go away with medication, self-care strategies, and/or addressing the underlying cause. That said, headaches associated with certain symptoms or features like fever, neurologic deficit, pregnancy, older age, or a weakened immune system require prompt medical attention.

Headaches in the morning have multiple possible causes. They may be a primary headache like a migraine or tension-type headache. They may also arise from a hangover, caffeine withdrawal, or an underlying health problem like sleep apnea.

A tension headache (also called a tension-type headache) is the most common form of headache. It causes pressure or a tightening sensation around the head or neck and can last from 30 minutes to seven days.

There are different descriptions of headaches reported in patients with COVID-19. A typical one is a moderate-severe headache located on both sides of the head, forehead, or around the eyes, that is throbbing or pressing in nature.

Dodick DW.  A phase-by-phase review of migraine pathophysiology .  Headache . 2018;58:1:4-16. doi:10.1111/head.13300

Ghadiri-Sani M, Silver N. Headache (chronic tension-type) . BMJ Clin Evid.  2016;2016:1205.

Weaver-Agostoni J.  Cluster headache .  Am Fam Physician . 2013;88(2):122-128.

Van Os HJA, Wermer MJH, Rosendaal FR, Govers-riemslag JW, Algra A, Siegerink BS.  Intrinsic coagulation pathway, history of headache, and risk of ischemic stroke .  Stroke . 2019;50(8):2181-2186. doi:10.1161/STROKEAHA.118.023124

Oliveira FAA, Rocha-Filho PAS. Headaches attributed to ischemic stroke and transient ischemic attack . Headache . 2019;59(3):469-476. doi:10.1111/head.13478

Yang C-W, Fuh J-L. Thunderclap headache: an update . Expert Rev Neurother. 2018;18(12):915-924. doi:10.1080/14737175.2018.1537782

Rasul CH, Muhammad F, Hossain MJ, Ahmed KU, Rahman M.  Acute meningoencephalitis in hospitalised children in southern Bangladesh.   Malays J Med Sci.  2012;19(2):67-73.

Nelson S, Taylor LP. Headaches in brain tumor patients: primary or secondary? Headache . 2014;54(4):776-785. doi:10.1111/head.12326

Taylor LP.  Mechanism of brain tumor headache .  Headache . 2014;54(4):772-775. doi:10.1111/head.12317

International Headache Society.  Headache attributed to trauma or injury to the head and/or neck .

Phu Do T, Remmers A, Schytz HW, et al. Red and orange flags for secondary headaches in clinical practice: SNNOOP10 list . Neurology. 2019;92(3):134-144. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000006697

Tepper SJ. Medication-overuse headache . Continuum . 2012;18(4):807-822. doi:10.1212/01.CON.0000418644.32032.7b

Ashina M, Buse DC, Ashina H et al. Migraine: integrated approaches to clinical management and emerging treatments . Lancet 2021;397(10283):1505-1518. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)32342-4

Robbins MS, Starling AJ, Pringsheim TM, Becker WJ, Schwedt TJ. Treatment of cluster headache: the American Headache Society evidence-based guidelines . Headache . 2016;56(7):1093-1106. doi:10.1111/head.12866

Aring AM, Chan MM. Current concepts in adult acute rhinosinusitis . Am Fam Physician.  2016;94(2):97-105.

Zhao L, Chen J, Li Y, et al.  The long-term effect of acupuncture for migraine prophylaxis: a randomized clinical trial .  JAMA Intern Med . 2017;177(4):508-515. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.9378

Bolay H, Gül A, Baykan B. COVID-19 is a real headache! Headache . 2020;60(7):1415-1421. doi:10.1111/head.13856

By Colleen Doherty, MD Dr. Doherty is a board-certified internist and writer living with multiple sclerosis. She is based in Chicago.

There's a new COVID-19 variant called FLiRT: Here's what you need to know about it

how to do homework with a headache

A new set of COVID-19 variants , nicknamed FLiRT, has been detected in wastewater surveillance, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

From April 14 through April 27, the variant, labeled KP.2, makes up about 25% of the cases in the United States, according to the CDC. That makes it the new dominant variant in the country, overtaking JN.1. The JN.1 variant , which spread globally over the winter, made up 22% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. in the same two-week span.

KP.1.1, another FLiRT variant that is circulating, made up about 7.5% of COVID-19 cases in that two-week span, according to CDC data.

Megan L. Ranney, dean of the Yale School of Public Health, told WebMD that FLiRT has some concerning features , like changes in the spike protein, which play a role in helping SARS-CoV-2 colonize the body and make people sick.

According to the CDC, only 22.6% of adults reported having received an updated 2023-24 COVID-19 vaccine since September 2023. Data also shows that vaccination coverage increased by age and was highest among adults 75 and older.

“We’ve got a population of people with waning immunity, which increases our susceptibility to a wave,” Thomas A. Russo, chief of infectious disease at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Buffalo, told WebMD.

"The CDC is tracking SARS-CoV-2 variants KP.2 and KP.1.1, sometimes referred to as 'FLiRT,' and working to better understand their potential impact on public health," the agency said in an emailed statement to USA TODAY Wednesday.

"Currently, KP.2 is the dominant variant in the United States, but laboratory testing data indicate low levels of SARS-CoV-2 transmission overall at this time. That means that while KP.2 is proportionally the most predominant variant, it is not causing an increase in infections as transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is low," the CDC said in the statement.

New COVID-19 guidelines: CDC shortens COVID-19 isolation period. What to know about new guidelines

Symptoms of COVID 'FLiRT' variant

According to the CDC, there are "no current indicators" that KP.2 would cause more severe illness than other strains. The agency said it would continue to monitor community transmission of the virus and how vaccines perform against this strain.

The "FLiRT" variant reportedly has similar symptoms to those from JN.1 which include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Muscle aches
  • Difficulty breathing
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • "Brain fog" (feeling less wakeful and aware)
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms (upset stomach, mild diarrhea, vomiting)

The CDC notes that the list does not include all possible symptoms and that symptoms may change with new variants and can vary by person.

In general, the agency says, people with COVID-19 have a wide range of symptoms , ranging from mild to severe illness. Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure.

Latest COVID guidance from the CDC

In March 2024, the CDC updated its COVID-19 guidance so people who test positive for the virus will no longer be directed to isolate at home for five days.

Health officials announced a new policy focusing on actions people can take to reduce spreading a variety of common respiratory viruses, such as influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID-19. Those actions include staying home when sick, staying up to date with vaccines, practicing good hygiene and improving indoor air quality.

The change marked the first time the agency has revised its coronavirus guidelines since 2021. It is intended for people and employers, not for hospitals or nursing homes that have separate guidance, the CDC said.

CDC officials called the change a streamlined approach that’s easier for people to understand and more in line with circulating respiratory viruses that spread the same way and have similar symptoms. 

Contributing: Eduardo Cuevas, Adrianna Rodriguez, Ken Alltucker, Mary Walrath-Holdridge and Mike Snider

Gabe Hauari is a national trending news reporter at USA TODAY. You can follow him on X  @GabeHauari  or email him at [email protected].

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Wages, employment, inflation are up, causing headaches for the Fed

Scott Horsley 2010

Scott Horsley

how to do homework with a headache

Restaurant prices rose 4.2% over the last year. But Americans continue to dine out regularly. Michael Mathes/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

Restaurant prices rose 4.2% over the last year. But Americans continue to dine out regularly.

The Federal Reserve has promised to be "data driven" in deciding when to cut interest rates. But some of the recent economic data has the central bank driving in circles.

Economic growth is slowing. But hiring appears to be picking up. Cars are getting cheaper but auto insurance is more expensive. Inflation is lower than it was a year ago but higher than it was last month.

As they try to sift through sometimes contradictory economic signals, Fed policymakers are likely to stick with their go-slow approach, leaving interest rates unchanged this week — and possibly for months to come.

"If you want to join the kennel of data dogs, what's the first rule of the kennel?" Chicago Fed president Austan Goolsbee said recently . "If you are unclear, stop walking and start sniffing. And with these numbers, we need to do more sniffing."

23-year-high interest rates through summer

Inflation fell sharply in the second half of last year, leading some to believe the Fed would soon be ready to take its foot off the brake and start cutting interest rates. But that progress on prices has since slowed, and Fed watchers now expect the Fed to keep its benchmark interest rate at a 23-year high, at least through the summer.

Police enter Columbia University's Hamilton Hall amid pro-Palestinian protests

Columbia University students take over building, as college antiwar protests grow

"I think we have to recalibrate," Goolsbee said. "It doesn't look like it's going to be as rapid as it looked for the previous six or seven months."

'The mystery is economic strength, not economic weakness'

Inflation numbers released by the Commerce Department last week showed prices climbing 2.7% during the 12 months ending in March — the biggest annual increase in four months. Former White House economist Ernie Tedeschi says he's not worried that inflation is picking up steam, but he agrees with Goolsbee that it's no longer cooling.

"I think it's clear at this point that the progress that we've made lowering inflation towards [the Fed's 2%] target has stalled," says Tedeschi, who's now director of economics at the Yale Budget Lab. "This is a good challenge for the Fed, although certainly a challenge. What's underpinning the Fed's concern and mystery is economic strength, not economic weakness."

The job market remains strong, with unemployment under 4%. And while the economy grew more slowly in the first three months of the year than forecasters expected, consumer spending is still robust.

U.S. bans noncompete agreements for nearly all jobs

U.S. bans noncompete agreements for nearly all jobs

Spending continues to increase.

Higher interest rates have cut into spending on big-ticket items. But spending on services continues to increase.

"You typically take out a loan for when you make a big goods purchase, like a car, certainly a house," Tedeschi says. "Services spending is generally less interest rate-sensitive."

So while the Fed can influence demand for cars and houses by adjusting interest rates, its ability to tamp down demand for restaurant meals or concert tickets is more limited.

"We have one tool, basically," Goolsbee said, referring to interest rates. "If you ask the question, 'How interest rate-sensitive are elective plastic surgeries?' I have no idea. So we're trying to match our tools to the moment and that's not totally straightforward."

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What's more, many Americans are largely insulated from the Fed's high interest rates, if they don't carry a balance on their credit card and they locked in a low, fixed interest rate on their mortgage.

"That's one of the reasons why the consumer remains fairly willing to go out to restaurants and go to the mall," says Oren Klachkin, financial market economist at Nationwide. "They're not feeling that pain of the high-rate environment. Of course, that means that inflation is not going to come down as fast. But that's kind of the tradeoff that we're in right now."

Job market still strong, wages increasing

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell has said the central bank can afford to be patient in battling inflation, since high interest rates have so far not hurt the job market. U.S. employers added an average of 276,000 jobs a month in January, February and March — up from 212,000 jobs on average in the three previous months. (April jobs numbers will be released on Friday.)

Employers' cost for labor rose 4.2% in the 12 months ending in March, according to figures released Monday by the Labor Department . While rising wages could put more upward pressure on prices, they're also a big reason that people keep spending money.

"They have jobs. Their wages are increasing," Klachkin says. "It's not to say that there's not risks. We're seeing credit card delinquencies increase. The savings rate is quite low. This leaves them fairly exposed if and when the labor market does soften. But until that happens, the consumer is going to remain in a spending mood."

  • Federal Reserve
  • consumer spending
  • U.S. economy

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