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.

Headaches

Headaches
beginning of content

Headaches

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

Primary headaches are the most common. They include tension headaches, migraine and cluster headaches.

Primary headaches can be caused by a number of things including:

Sometimes there is no obvious cause.

Secondary headaches

Secondary headaches have a separate cause, such as illness. They include headaches caused by drinking too much alcohol or a head injury or concussion.

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.

Dehydration

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
  • alcohol
  • 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

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 3550 results

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

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

Children and headache - Headache Australia

Headache in Children and Adolescents a Frequent Symptom Headache is a frequent symptom in children and adolescents, many cases not being seen by doctors. Studies have shown that prevalence increases from preschool age (3-8%) to mid-adolescence (57-82%). One of the recommendations of a recent World Health Organization report Headache Disorders and Public Health was... Read more

Read more on Headache Australia website

What Is Headache - Headache Australia

One of the Most Common Symptoms Experienced by Humans. Headache is one of the commonest symptoms experienced by humans. In fact, it is quite unusual not to have at least an occasional headache. Why some people never experience headache is not known. It is probably linked with their inheritance of the chemical transmitters that pass... Read more

Read more on Headache Australia website

Cluster Headache - Headache Australia

Cluster headache is an extraordinarily painful, rare (affects about 1 per 1000, estimated 14,000 Australians) chronic disease affecting five times as many men as women. Cluster headaches usually develop between the ages of 20 and 40. It occurs rarely in children and is extremely rare after 70-75. The term cluster is used as the attacks... Read more

Read more on Headache Australia website

Prevalence and cost of headache - Headache Australia

Prevalence and Cost of Headache As no major studies have been undertaken in Australia we must rely on overseas studies, particularly those carried out in the United States, for information about prevalence and cost. Based on the studies summarised below, we can expect the following statistics to apply to Australia: up to three millionmigraine sufferers... Read more

Read more on Headache Australia website

Teen Health - Health Topics - Headaches

Do you get headaches? Headaches are very common. There are many causes of headaches, and how they need to be managed depends on the cause and how often they happen.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Young Adult Health - Health Topics - Headaches

Do you get headaches? Headaches are very common. There are many causes of headaches, and how they need to be managed depends on the cause and how often they happen.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Headache

Most headaches are not serious. However, sometimes, when associated with other signs and symptoms, headaches may be an indication of a serious underlying condition.

Read more on WA Health website

Headache Management - Headache Australia

Towards a Better Life Headache is a very individual condition. It is not life threatening but it can profoundly affect quality of life. Headache sufferers are uniquely placed in that they can determine factors common to their own condition, learn more about their own condition and headache in general, and develop a plan to manage... Read more

Read more on Headache Australia 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