When to Visit the ER for a Headache

For the majority of people, the occasional headache shouldn’t cause concern. However, the sudden onset of a prolonged headache may require a visit to the emergency department.

If you’re not sure whether your headache requires emergency care, consider these guidelines.

If You Have These Symptoms, You May Require Emergency Care

If you experience the sudden onset of a headache that interferes with daily tasks or is debilitating, you should immediately visit the closest emergency department. If the headache is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, you should also seek emergency care.

  • Difficulty walking
  • Fever
  • Severe pain that begins suddenly
  • Other neurological symptoms, including weakness, numbness, slurred speech and blurred vision

If You Have These Medical Conditions, You May Require Emergency Care

For individuals with certain medical histories, experiencing a headache could potentially indicate a more serious issue. If you have any of these medical conditions, and you experience a severe, debilitating headache, you should visit an emergency department.

Women who use oral contraceptives have an increased risk of blood clots, which may cause headaches. This is particularly true for women who smoke.  

  • Follows a head injury
  • A recent injury or trauma
  • Use of blood thinners