Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Headache treatments

If you have a headache there are things you can do to manage or prevent the condition.

  • Relax and rest in a quiet, well-ventilated room. Keep the window open if possible to allow fresh air to circulate.
  • Make sure the room isn’t too hot or too cold.
  • Use a cold damp cloth such as a flannel or an ice pack on your head. You can make an ice pack from a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel. Although you can refreeze the peas as many times as you like, you must not eat the peas after they have defrosted.
  • Splashing your face with cold water.
  • Drink plenty of water during the day, unless you have an existing medical condition which means this is not possible.
  • To prevent dehydration, always make sure that you drink more fluids after exercising or when the weather is hot.
  • Eat regularly to avoid your blood glucose levels dropping, as this may cause a headache.
  • Massaging your neck, shoulders, jaw or scalp can help relieve the pressure of a tension headache.
  • Regular exercise can help prevent tension headaches.
  • If you spend a lot of time sitting down, try to get up and move around for a few minutes at least once an hour. Sitting in the same position can put pressure on your neck muscles and cause headaches.
  • Try not to use headache medicines too often as frequent use can lead to ‘rebound’ headaches, causing the medicines to become less effective.
  • Certain foods or drinks, such as those containing chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol, or tobacco products may cause headaches. So can not using them if you do so regularly.

A headache diary may help you to detect headache triggers, that is, the things in your life that seem to regularly cause headaches.

Continue your usual daily activities as soon as your headache symptoms begin to clear up.

If you are in pain, get advice on which pain medicines you can take. Your pharmacist may also recommend prescription medicines which may be used for the short term treatment of a headache. Some medicines may not be suitable if you are pregnant or taking other medicines, or for children with headaches. Always follow the instructions on any medicines you take.

If you are getting a lot of headaches or concerned talk to your doctor.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your headaches, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Last reviewed: July 2015

Recommended links

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 3086 results

History of Headache - Headache Australia

History of Headache Headache in Ancient Times As early as 7000 BC, signs of ancient neurosurgery were evident. Neolithic skulls show that trepanation (the removal of a segment of bone from the skull) was widely performed. Trepanation may have been performed to release demons and evil spirits from the head. Ancient man believed these spirits... Read more

Read more on Headache Australia website

Treatment of Headache - No Absolute Cure - Headache Australia

While there is still no absolute cure for headache, there are a number of treatment options, both medications and other forms including complementary therapies. ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR MEDICAL PRACTITIONER before taking any form of treatment. (Please note-advances in medical science occur rapidly and some of this information about medications and treatment may soon be out... Read more

Read more on Headache Australia website

Headache and Pain Clinics - Headache Australia

Headache and pain clinics are normally located at major hospitals and may be conducted by specialist doctors or multidisciplinary teams taking a holistic approach to treatment. A referral from a general practitioner is generally required. ACT Pain Management UnitBuilding 8, Canberra HospitalYamba DriveGarran, ACT 2605 (02) 6244-3055 NEW SOUTH WALES The Combined Neurology... Read more

Read more on Headache Australia website

Treatment Options - Headache Australia

It is important to discuss with your healthcare professional your treatment options. If the medication that you are currently on is ineffective, there may be other treatment options that will be effective. Medications are available that you can take when you start to experience a migraine attack to help reduce the symptoms associated with migraine.... Read more

Read more on Headache Australia website

Migraine Management Tips - Headache Australia

Take note: track your condition in a headache diary Its important to be organized and informed about your migraine attacks and how they impact your life. Tracking this information in a headache diary and then sharing the details with your physician will help ensure that you and your healthcare provider can put together an effective... Read more

Read more on Headache Australia website

Chronic daily headache (chronic migraine, medication overuse headache) | myVMC

Chronic daily headache is a type of frequently occurring headache which may be further classified as either:Chronic daily headache is thought to most typically occur as a result of medication overuse

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Influenza virus (flu) treatment information video | myVMC

There is no treatment for influenza infection. Flu symptoms like headache, fever and sore throat can be relieved with cold and flu medicines and bed rest.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Tension-type Headache - Headache Australia

Tension-type headache is the most widespread headache disorder. Recent international studies have shown the average prevalence as 36% for men and 42% for women (cf migraine: 6% for men and 18% for women). This means that about 7 million Australians are likely to have tension-type headaches. A recent WHO report states that onset is often... Read more

Read more on Headache Australia website

Personal Management - Headache Australia

To assist you to take charge of your headache, consider the following: 1. Take responsibility for your headache Doctors, family, friends, colleagues and Headache Australia provide support but only you really know your headache and can take the action that leads to headache management. Periods between headaches represent an opportunity to learn more and develop... Read more

Read more on Headache Australia website

Cluster Headache | myVMC

Cluster headaches produce severe pain on one side of the head. Sufferers typically experience a cluster of headaches followed by a period of no headaches.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback