Smoking and second-hand smoke from cigarettes, cigars, and pipes can contribute to headaches for both the smoker and the non-smoker. Nicotine, one of the components of tobacco, stimulates the blood vessels in the brain to constrict (narrow). Smoking also stimulates the nerves in the back of the throat, contributing to headache pain.
Usually, by removing the stimulus (nicotine), headaches will be relieved. Quitting smoking or reducing exposure to second-hand smoke is especially helpful for those with cluster headaches. In one study of people with cluster headaches, those who reduced their tobacco use by less than one-half pack of cigarettes per day found their headaches decreased by 50%.
Although painful and troublesome, most headaches are minor and can be easily treated with aspirin or another pain reliever. (Do not use aspirin in anyone under the age of 19 since it may increase the risk for Reye’s Syndrome, a serious potentially fatal disease.) But if your headaches are severe, recur frequently, or are accompanied by other symptoms, you may need to see a health care provider.
Headaches are categorized according to their underlying causes. Common types of headaches include: