How to Treat a Headache Beyond Just Taking Drugs
Headaches can range from annoying to debilitating – and when it comes to treating them, you should use all the means at your disposal, including drug and non-drug options. While reaching for an over-the-counter headache reliever is an effective strategy, taking it too frequently can cause problems of its own.
Some of the complications of taking too much over-the-counter headache medicine include: liver damage, This can happen if you exceed the maximum dosage stated on the bottle (either by taking too much at one time or by taking it frequently for a very long time). Although rare, a acetaminophen overdose is the Leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States and is responsible for one Estimated 500 deaths per yearwith the possibility of damage starting as soon as you exceed 4,000mg in one dayor 8 tablets of Tylenol Extra Strength.
“A good rule of thumb is to really pay attention to the dosage and frequency guidelines on the over the counter [headache medications],” said Mike Seville, family physician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Family Physicians. “Do not exceed these dosage and frequency guidelines. Some medications are recommended twice a day, some frequencies are every six hours as needed. Heed these recommendations.” These instructions exist for a reason: following them will protect you.
Another problem can be rebound headachewhere long-term use of over-the-counter headache medication can trigger medication-overuse headaches, defeating the whole purpose.
Headaches have different causes
Headaches can be caused by a set of factors, including stress, heat, lack of sleep, skipping meals, allergies, or a number of other triggers, many of which may be specific to an individual. When it comes to these triggers, the best thing to do is work on avoiding them to reduce your chances of getting a headache.
“The cornerstone of headache prevention is staying hydrated,” said Jesus Lizarzaburu, family physician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Family Physicians. “One of the main reasons people get hangover headaches is dehydration.”
It can also help keep a headache diary, where you record when you get a headache, along with what you did in the days and hours before it, so you can get a better idea of what your triggers are. Lizarzaburu also advises making regular sleep a priority.
Strategies to try are not drugs
When you have a headache, the goal is always to relieve your pain as quickly and efficiently as possible. As such, you may want to include non-drug strategies as a standalone intervention or in combination with drugs. This can help you reduce, if not eliminate, the total amount of medication you need.
Some non-drug strategies contain:
- Rest in a quiet, dark room
- Apply an ice pack to your forehead
- Drink some water
- Drink something with caffeine, such as B. a cup of coffee
- Do light stretches to release tension that could be causing your headache
Sevilla advises that it’s time to see your doctor when your typical strategies stop working or when your headache frequency reaches a point where it’s disrupting your life. “If your headache comes along with other symptoms like dizziness, lightheadedness, numbness or tingling, or difficulty speaking, these could be signs of a stroke‘ said Seville. If that happens, “call 911 or go to the hospital right away.”