Headaches are a common cause of pain and discomfort, and most people will have headaches at some time in their lives.
The term ‘headache’ covers any pain around the head, face or neck area.
There are two main types of headache:
- primary – which often “just happen” and are not caused by another injury or illness
- secondary – which are caused by some underlying health condition.
Primary headaches can be caused by a number of things including:
Sometimes there is no obvious cause.
Headaches in women may be caused by hormones, and some women notice a link between headaches and their periods. Hormonal changes due to taking the Pill, menopause and pregnancy can also be triggers for headaches.
Some headaches can even occur as a side effect of medication, such as painkillers. People sometimes get headaches when they’re unwell. For example, you may get a headache when you have a cold, sinusitis, flu or an allergic reaction.
Lack of fluids can cause dehydration and is a common cause of headaches. Fluids are needed for the body to function correctly and may be lost through:
- illness such as vomiting or diarrhoea
- vigorous exercise
- excessive sweating
- having large amounts of drinks containing caffeine such as coffee, tea or cola, which cause you to urinate frequently
- working in hot weather or high-temperature environments.
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