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    Headache Basics

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    What Are the Types of Headaches? continued...

    Acute headaches: Kids get these headaches that start suddenly and go away after a short time. If there are no symptoms of other nerve problems, the most common cause is a respiratory or sinus infection.

    Hormone headaches: Women can get headaches from changing hormone levels during their periods, pregnancy, and menopause. The hormone changes from birth control pills also trigger headaches in some women.

    Chronic progressive headaches: Also called traction or inflammatory headaches, these get worse and happen more often over time. They make up less than 5% of all headaches in adults and less than 2% of all headaches in kids. They may be the result of an illness or disorder of the brain or skull.

    What Causes Headaches?

    The pain you feel during a headache comes from a mix of signals between your brain, blood vessels, and nearby nerves. Specific nerves of the blood vessels and head muscles switch on and send pain signals to your brain. But it's not clear why these signals turn on in the first place.

    People often get headaches because of:

    Illness: such as an infection, cold, or fever. They’re also common with conditions like sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses), a throat infection, or an ear infection. In some cases, the headaches may be the result of a blow to the head or rarely, a sign of a more serious medical problem.

    Stress: Common causes of tension headaches include emotional stress and depression as well as alcohol use, skipping meals, changes in sleep patterns, and taking too much medication. Other causes include eyestrain and neck or back strain due to poor posture.

    Your environment, including secondhand tobacco smoke, strong smells from household chemicals or perfumes, allergens, and certain foods. Stress, pollution, noise, lighting, and weather changes are other possible triggers.

    Headaches, especially migraines, tend to run in families. Most children and teens (90%) who have migraines have other family members who get them. When both parents have a history of migraines, there is a 70% chance that their child will also have them. If only one parent has a history of these headaches, the risk drops to 25%-50%.

    Doctors don’t know exactly what causes migraines. A popular theory is that triggers cause unusual brain activity, which causes changes in the blood vessels there. Some forms of migraines are linked to genetic problems in certain parts of the brain.

    Too much physical activity can also trigger a migraine in adults and children.

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