Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Migraines & Headaches Health Center

Select An Article
Font Size

Frequently Asked Questions About Headaches

1. Are Migraines Hereditary?

Yes, migraines have a tendency to run in families. Four out of five migraine sufferers have a family history of migraines. If one parent has a history of migraines, the child has a 50% chance of developing migraines, and if both parents have a history of migraines, the risk jumps to 75%.

Surprising Headache Triggers

2. Can Migraines Be Prevented?

Yes. You can reduce the frequency of your migraine attacks by identifying and then avoiding migraine triggers. You can keep track of your headache patterns and identify headache triggers by using a headache diary.

Recalling what was eaten prior to an attack may help you identify chemical triggers.

Stress management and coping techniques, along with relaxation training, can help prevent or reduce the severity of the migraine attacks.

Women who often get migraines around their menstrual period can take preventive therapy when they know their period is coming.

Migraine sufferers also seem to have fewer attacks when they eat on a regular schedule and get adequate rest.

Regular exercise -- in moderation -- can also help prevent migraines.

3. What Pain Medications Are Responsible for Causing Rebound Headaches?

Many commonly used pain relief medications, when taken in large enough amounts, can cause rebound headaches. Drugs once thought of as "safe" are turning up as the likeliest culprits. These include:

  • Aspirin
  • Sinus relief medications
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (Aleve)
  • Sedatives for sleep
  • Codeine and prescription narcotics
  • Over-the-counter combination headache remedies containing caffeine (such as Anacin, Excedrin, Bayer Select)
  • Ergotamine preparations (such as Cafergot, Migergot, Ergomar, Bellergal-S, Bel-Phen-Ergot S, Phenerbel-S, Ercaf, Wigraine, and Cafatine PB)
  • Butalbital combination pain-relievers (Goody's Headache Powder, Supac, Excedrin)

While small amounts of these drugs per week may be safe (and effective) -- at some point, the continued medication use can lead to the development of low-grade headaches that just will not go away.

4. Can Allergies Cause Headaches?

It is a misconception that allergies cause headaches. However, allergies can cause sinus congestion, which can lead to headache pain. If you have allergies, the treatment for your allergy will not relieve your headache pain. The two conditions generally must be treated separately. See your doctor to ensure proper treatment.

5. Do Children Outgrow Headaches?

Headaches may get better as your child gets older. The headaches may disappear and then return later in life. By junior high school, many boys who have migraines outgrow them, but in girls, migraine frequency increases with age because of hormone changes. Migraines are three times more likely to occur in adolescent girls than in boys.

6. What Food Triggers Headaches?

Some of the most common food, beverages, and additives associated with headaches include:

  • Aged cheese and other tyramine-containing foods: Tyramine is a substance found naturally in some foods. It is formed from the breakdown of protein as foods age. Generally, the longer a high-protein food ages, the greater the tyramine content. The amount of tyramine in cheeses differs greatly due to the variations in processing, fermenting, aging, degradation, or even bacterial contamination. Tyramine is also found in red wine, alcoholic beverages, and some processed meats.
  • Alcohol: Blood flow to your brain increases when you drink alcohol. Some scientists blame the headache on impurities in alcohol or by-products produced as your body metabolizes alcohol. Red wine, beer, whiskey, and champagne are the most commonly identified headache triggers.
  • Food additives: Food preservatives (or additives) contained in certain foods can trigger headaches. The additives, nitrates and nitrites, dilate blood vessels, causing headaches in some people.
  • Cold foods: Cold food, like ice cream, can cause headaches in some people. It's more likely to occur if you are overheated from exercise or hot temperatures. Pain, which is felt in the forehead, peaks 25 to 60 seconds and lasts from several seconds to one or two minutes. More than 90% of migraine sufferers report sensitivity to ice cream and cold substances.

WebMD Medical Reference

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

woman receiving acupuncture
14 alternative methods for migraine relief.
Woman with migraine headache
Signs it's not a regular headache.
 
headache in the bedroom
Keep headaches from ruining your sex life.
desert heat
12 surprising headache triggers.
 
woman receiving acupuncture
Slideshow
Hands reaching for medicine
Article
 
Migraines Headaches Basics
Article
acupuncture needles in woman's back
Slideshow
 
Hormones Headaches
Articles
healthy lifestyle items
Article
 
Sinusitis
Slideshow
headache in the bedroom
Article
 

Special Sections