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Quick Action Key to Headache Relief May 1, 2008

FOR MORE INFORMATION, contact Rebecca Sylvester at 706/828-2394.

Quick Action Key Headache to Relief

AUGUSTA – Ga. (April 22, 2008) Millions of people suffer from headaches every day, and the key to relief is understanding their causes and taking proper action.

While there are several different types of headaches, the two most common types are tension headaches and migraines, according Victoria Burt, a nurse practitioner at University and regular guest on NBC Augusta’s Healthy U segment. Healthy U airs in the 11 a.m. newscast each Tuesday.

“Tension headaches are the most common,” she said. “They account for 80 percent of headaches.”

More women than men suffer from tension headaches that are characterized by mild pain, a band-like tightness or pressure around the head and few other symptoms. Tension headaches usually begin in the upper neck, and occur randomly with very little pattern. They should be treated with over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Migraines, the second most common type of headaches, occur in 15 percent of cases. Children and adults can experience migraines, which are more common in women as adults.

“Migraines involve intense, throbbing, pounding pain, usually on one side of the head,” Ms. Burt explained. They are aggravated by movement, light and sound and may involve nausea and vomiting and flashing lights or otherwise impaired eyesight. Headaches can have many causes:

  • Stress
  • Environment -- noise, crowds, bright lights
  • Certain foods -- cheese, chocolate, processed meats, or alcohol

“People should keep a headache diary to record patterns in order to find out what might have triggered the headache,” Ms. Burt said.

Living a healthy lifestyle seems to be the best way to avoid headaches, Ms. Burt said.

  • Get enough sleep. Follow a regular sleep routine.
  • Don’t skip meals.
  • Exercise regularly – it helps reduce stress and improves circulation.
  • Limit caffeine to less than 2 drinks a day.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation -- 1–2 drinks a day if at all.
  • Don’t smoke or use mood changing drugs or sedatives.
  • Identify your triggers and avoid them.

The best treatment for a headache is to lie down in a dark, quiet room at the first sign of an attack, Ms. Burt said. “Apply a cold cloth to your forehead, try to relax and begin the proper medications. Prescription medication may be necessary if the headaches occur 3–4 days month or more.”

Red flags for headaches that you should seek treatment for are:

  • The “worse headache ever”
  • If they increase in occurrence and severity
  • Those associated with fever, stiff neck or rash
  • Following head trauma or fall
  • Beginning after 50 years of age or in a child younger than 3

For more information about headaches or help finding a physician, call ASK-A-NURSE at 706/737-8423 or toll free at 800/476-7378.

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