How can you tell if your migraine headaches require emergency attention?
Migraine headaches are a neurological disorder that causes sharp, throbbing head pain, in addition to queasiness, vomiting, visual disturbances, and extreme sensitivity to bright lights, strong scents, and loud noises. Migraine pain can be unbearably draining and excruciating. If you’ve ever been in the middle of a migraine attack, then you understand the urgency to find something that will immediately alleviate your agony.
Stay home, or call 911?
Millions of migraine sufferers visit their local hospital emergency rooms every year, hoping for some quick migraine pain relief. Unfortunately, unless your headache symptoms are severe enough to suggest a stroke, you will probably wait many long hours before even seeing a nurse. As far as the ER ranking system goes, you are going to be somewhere very near the bottom of the patient chain.
So, how does one know when to call the doctor, when to call 911, or when to call in sick and just stay home?
Headache warning signs
Below are eight common red flag headache warnings that necessitate a trip to ER, followed by some less urgent migraine conditions that can wait until your visit to the headache doctor.
Call 911 or go to the emergency room if any of these headache symptoms occur:
- A migraine headache that has lasted longer than 72 hours
- Migraine head pain that is more severe than usual
- Headache accompanied by fever, hypertension, sore neck muscles, or a rash.
- Migraine pain that wakes you up out of a deep sleep in the middle of the night
- Severe headache combined with intense stomach upset, such a nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.
- Headaches that result from head trauma, a car accident, or a bad fall
- If you are over the age of40*, and have not been diagnosed with migraines, then any new or uncommon pattern of headaches that could suggest migraines
- Symptoms that indicate neurological damage:
- Visual disturbances, such as blurred vision, flashing orbs of light, blind spots, or hallucination
- Dizziness, loss of balance and sudden weakness
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Speech difficulties, such as stuttering, slurring and muttering incoherently
- Any other peculiar behavior (Read Strange but True: Migraines can Give You a British Accent)
The following scenarios do not require a trip to ER, but do call for a visit to a neurologist:
- You are having more than three migraines every week
- You are using pain medication every day, or at least four times per week to treat headaches
- Migraine head pain increases in severity, and doesn’t alleviate
- Headache triggers that include physical exertion, coughing or sneezing, and bending over
- Any unusual shift in your typical migraine pattern
- You have not been diagnosed with migraines, but you suspect your chronic headaches are related, and you are under the age of 40*