Emergency advice


  1. Help them to a quiet place.
  2. Apply a cold compress to the head.
  3. Advise the recommended dose of paracetamol.
  4. Seek medical advice.

Most headaches aren’t serious and usually settle without treatment. Some people can get them for no specific reason, but sometimes they occur following a specific cause. Some headaches can be a sign of more serious conditions, such as meningitis, stroke, or following a head injury

Possible causes:

  • an illness such as flu
  • dehydration
  • stress or tiredness
  • exposure to extremely hot or cold temperatures
  • excess alcohol, or other drug use.

What to do

  1. If someone has a headache, help them to sit or lie down somewhere quiet, and give them a cold compress to hold against their head. 

  2. If the casualty is an adult, you can suggest they take the recommended dose of pain killers, like paracetamol tablets. If the casualty is a child, you can give them the recommended dose of paracetamol syrup.

    • Do not give aspirin to anyone under the age of 16 or anyone who is known to be allergic.
  3. Seek medical advice if the casualty: 

    • does not improve
    • develops a severe and incapacitating pain
    • has a pain accompanied by fever or vomiting
    • has blurred or double vision
    • has a pain accompanied by loss of strength or sensation, or by impaired level of response as this could indicate early signs of a stroke
    • has a pain following a head injury that is not settling or is getting worse
    • has a pain accompanied by a stiff neck and sensitivity to light; this could indicate that the casualty has meningitis.

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Related first aid advice


Dehydration can develop into a more serious condition if left untreated. Find out what to look for and what to do.

Head injuries in adults

All head injuries are potentially serious because they may damage the brain. A head injury may cause damage to the brain tissue, a skull fracture or an injury to the spine or neck. Learn what to do.

Head injuries in babies and children

When your baby starts to crawl, they may bump their head or fall. Find out what to look for and what to do for minor and severe head injuries in babies and children.

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