If everyone in your house has a headache, you may be wondering if your home can make you sick. Such headaches can be caused by something as serious as life-threatening exposure to carbon monoxide or a problem that's simple to remedy, like too much screen time. Try these steps to stop the throbbing.
1. Clean Out Your Medicine Cabinet
The key to figuring out your headaches may be as close as your medicine shelf. "The most common thing in the home that causes headaches is pain medication," says Maher Fakhouri, MD, a neurologist at Detroit Medical Center's Harper Hospital and an associate professor of neurology at Wayne State University in Detroit. If you use a lot of pain medications, like acetaminophen or aspirin or a combination drug, more than two days a week, you could get a rebound headache that sends you back to the bottle for more.
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"If they keep escalating the dose, they may get chronic daily headaches — we see it all the time," Dr. Fakhouri says. If you're having headaches so severe that you need medication more than twice a week or if you have headaches that interfere with your life, it's definitely time to talk to your doctor about your headaches, he adds.
2. Check Your Carbon Monoxide Detector
One very serious cause of headaches in the home is a carbon monoxide leak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas. It's created by furnaces, kerosene heaters, cars warming up in garages, gas appliances, portable generators and burning charcoal and wood in areas without enough ventilation, the CDC states. Besides headaches, symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.
To protect your family, be sure to have working carbon monoxide detectors in your home. The CDC recommends changing the batteries every six months. If you think you might have exposed to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, call 911 or your doctor right away.
3. Keep Allergy Triggers in Check
Some people experience headaches caused by allergies, though this is not as common as you might think, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).
However, there are many common culprits. So, it's important to identify and remove any known triggers from your home. According to the ACAAI, possible allergens in the home include:
- Tobacco smoke (either from you smoking or secondhand smoke)
- Household dust
- Pollen (opening windows allows pollen inside)
The ACAAI suggests keeping your windows closed to keep pollen and dust to a minimum. A fan in the window will draw pollen in with the fresh air, so use air conditioning instead. Keep the air conditioners clean, though. Change or clean filters based on the manufacturer's recommendations.
To keep dust at bay, use a damp cloth to clean surfaces and a damp mop on floors so that you don't kick up more dust while you're cleaning. Clean bathrooms, kitchens and basements regularly to keep mold in check. If you have damp areas in your home, run a dehumidifier to keep mold from growing.
If you're allergic to your pet and just can't part with your fluffy pal, at least make your bedroom pet-free, ACAAI suggests.
4. Cut Back on Caffeine
Another cause of headaches that's often overlooked, but is in almost everyone's home, is caffeine. "Caffeine intake of more than five cups of coffee per day or a lot of cola or other caffeinated beverages can lead to a headache," Dr. Fakhouri says.
5. Take a Break from Screen Time
Everyone spends time buried in their screens these days, but too much screen time can leave you with a headache. "People don't realize it's the screen, and even keep staring at their screen while they're taking an analgesic," Dr. Fakhouri points out. Realistically, he knows people aren't giving up their phones or computers, but suggests giving your eyes and brain a break every half hour.
With a little bit of sleuthing, you'll find out what's in your house that's triggering your misery. Once you know the cause, you'll be on your way to a headache-free home.
- Maher Fakhouri, MD, neurologist, Detroit Medical Center's Harper University Hospital, associate professor of neurology, Wayne State University, Detroit
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning Prevention”
- American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: Allergy Headaches.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.