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Headaches are very common, most are not serious and can be easily treated. Simple lifestyle changes such as getting enough rest and drinking more fluids can treat most headaches. You can also take over-the-counter pain killers if required.

Types of Headaches

Tension headaches

These can last between 30 minutes to several hours but can also last up to a few days.
Tension headaches are the most common type of headaches; you may experience a constant ache on both sides of the head. Tension headaches generally will not be severe enough for you to stop doing daily tasks. They are linked to stress, diet, posture, skipping meals and lack of fluids.

Treating tension headaches

Making small changes such as;

  • Regular sleep and eating pattern
  • Reducing stress
  • Taking fluids regularly
  • Taking over-the-counter pain killers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can help.


Can last a minimum of hours to several days. Consist of a throbbing pain at the front or side of your head. You can also become extra sensitive to light and sound, and sometimes smells and touch. Sometimes you may experience nausea & vomiting. There can also be associated blurred vision, light headedness, sometimes followed by fainting. Carrying out daily activities can be difficult and you may need to go to bed.

Treating Migraines

  • Taking ordinary over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can help to alleviate the pain.
  • If you find you need stronger medication, you need to contact the Student Health Service.

Cluster Headaches

These headaches are rare as they come in clusters for a month at the same time of each year. These type of headaches are extremely painful consisting of severe pain around the eye area and are accompanied by other symptoms such as;

  • Red eye
  • Watering eye
  • Blocked and runny nose

Treating Cluster headaches

Ensure to see your doctor or make an appointment to see the doctor at the Student Health Service as they can prescribe treatments that are suitable to you.

Headaches from medication & painkillers

Some types of headaches can be a side effect of medication or too many pain killers. This type of headache will be relieved within a few weeks of stopping the medication or pain killer that is causing it. Initially though, the pain may be worse upon stopping the medication and it may take time before it starts to improve.

Treating headaches caused by medication

Ensure to see your doctor or make an appointment at the Student Health Services to discuss your headache as they can prescribe treatments that are suitable for you.

Hormonal headaches

These types of headaches are caused by hormonal changes as the headaches can have a correlation with the time of a woman’s period. Taking the combined contraceptive pill or being pregnant are also triggers for these type of headaches.

Treating hormonal headaches

  • Try to reduce stress in your life
  • Ensure you have a regular sleeping pattern
  • Try to avoid skipping meals.

Other causes of headaches

  • Having a head injury or a concussion (in this case consult your doctor)
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Cold and flu
  • Temporomandibular disorder that affects the muscles you use to chew food
  • Sinusitis
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Reducing sugar or caffeine (withdrawal symptoms)

Could my headache be something more serious?

In most cases having a headache is not a sign of a serious problem. On rare occasions, headaches can be a symptom of conditions such as stroke, meningitis or a brain tumour.

Headaches are more likely to be serious if it …

  • Occurs suddenly and is extremely severe
  • Does not go away and gets progressively worse
  • Occurs after a severe head injury
  •  Triggered by coughing, laughing, sneezing
  • Comes with other symptoms such as fever, stiffness in the neck, a rash, a pain in the jaw while chewing, problems with vision, sore scalp or redness in either of your eyes
  • If you have associated symptoms such as weakness, slurred speech, confusion, memory loss or drowsiness

If any of these symptoms are present along with a headache consult your doctor immediately.

When should I see my doctor?

  • If you find that you are not getting relief from over the counter pain killers.
  • If the headaches are so painful or frequent that they affect your daily life or cause you to miss college/work.

We can support you

Book an appointment with the nurse at IT Sligo Health Services reception desk – don’t forget your student ID card.

Email studenthealthservices@nullitsligo.ie or contact -071 93 05463 or 071 93 05205 for further information.