Mommy Medicine: Headaches explained

Mommy Medicine: Headaches explained

By Suzanne Carlile, Contributor | Posted - Nov. 14, 2011 at 7:27 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Everyone gets headaches, but not everyone knows where they come from or how to get rid of them.

A headache is defined as a pain in the head or upper neck. Because so many people suffer from headaches, and because treatment is sometimes difficult, you really need to get to know your headaches.

A headache can range from a common irritant to a life-threatening problem. I you don't know the difference, you could suffer lifelong consequences.

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. According to, up to 90 percent of adults have had or will have tension headaches. They stem from emotional stress or physical stress, such as a neck strain, and occur more commonly among women than men.

Did you know ...
The following items can trigger headaches and migraines:
  • Your boss
  • Warm weather
  • Strong scents
  • Hair accessories
  • Exercise
  • Poor posture
  • Cheese
  • Red wine
  • Cold cuts
  • Skipping meals
For more headache and migraine triggers, visit

The treatment for tension headaches is to reduce the stress in your life and/or tension in your body. It sounds easy, but few people can or want to reduce the stress. We want a pill that will take it away so we can get back to our routine. Medicating a tension headache needs to be the last choice, not the first.

Migraine headaches are the second most common type of headache. These headaches are very painful and debilitating. They can happen in children as well as adults. For some there is no cause found; for others it could be early signs of a brain tumor, aneurism or heart problems. Be sure to seek a doctor's help if your migraines are a new or have gone on as an undiagnosed problem.

Treatment for migraine headaches can range from over-the-counter medications to narcotics, from a message to hospitalization. It's important to know how to manage your migraines. Too many times people with migraines do not want to stop what they are doing and rest when a migraine starts. If you don't rest, your migraines will progressively get worse or last for days on end.

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Post-brain surgery headaches are common in most patients and can last awhile. It is difficult to treat these kinds of headaches because the brain has been irritated by the surgery. For example, if the surgery was to clip an aneurysm, the brain is irritated by the clip to the circulation area.

Treatment for post-surgery headaches can be very frustrating, but patience and persistence is the key. Some ideas that may help include making sure you get enough rest, exercising, reducing caffeine or sugar in your diet, and checking with your doctor to make sure the pain isn't a sign of something bigger.

Headaches can be a good thingas well. They are sometimes an early sign of high blood pressure or anemia, or a side-effect of a medication that needs to be changed. They can also serve as a warning sign that your in immediate danger, such as carbon monoxide poisoning.

If you have a sudden extreme headache, you are most likely experiencing a true emergency and you should seek medical help immediately. Do not try to wait it out.

Overall, the best treatment for you comes from knowing your body and understanding your headaches.

Suzanne Carlile, "Nurse Suzy," has been a nurse since 1982. Her main focus is critical care and nursing education. She holds a master's degree in nursing, is a Certified Emergency Nurse, and a member of NNSDO Intermountain West Chapter.

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Suzanne Carlile


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