Ways to prevent, treat the headache | Dr. Petter

Got a headache? More than 90 percent of Americans get headaches, and 50 million people suffer from chronic headaches.

There are several different headaches, including tension headaches (most common), cluster headaches, rebound and migraines.

No doubt, headaches can be distracting, miserable, and certainly tend to occur at the wrong time. What can you do to prevent headaches?

• Have your eyes checked, as you may need glasses or have your prescription adjusted.

• Check your blood pressure, as high blood pressure can cause headaches.

• Get plenty of sleep every night.

• Keep well hydrated, and don't skip meals.

• Don't smoke.

• Keep stress under control.

• Exercise regularly.

• Avoid alcoholic beverages.

• Consider avoiding MSG, artificial sweeteners (aspartame, saccharine) and nitrite-containing food (i.e., canned soups, process meets, frozen meals) especially if you have migraine headaches.

There are many treatments to alleviate headaches, some common, others untraditional. Besides using over-the-counter pain relievers such as Tylenol or anti-inflammatories (i.e., Advil, Aleve), consider the following home remedies:

• Drink a cup of iced coffee. Coffee and ice are vasoconstrictors, which reduce the size of dilated vessels within the head.

• Try aroma therapy. Rosemary, lavender or eucalyptuses oils can sooth aggravated and tight muscles and relax the mind.

• Drink a full glass of water. Dehydration can cause or contribute to a headache.

• Eat a handful of almonds. Almonds contain a natural pain-reliever called Salicin. This chemical acts like aspirin. In addition, almonds are high in magnesium, which can help relax tight muscles caused by stress and anxiety.

Dr. Linda Petter of Auburn is a weekly feature on KOMO TV/News Radio (1000 AM and 97.7 FM) every Saturday and Sunday 7:45 a.m. and & 9:45 a.m., and on a weekday during the morning and evening commute. She trained at the Mayo Clinic and the University of Illinois, Carle Hospital. Petter is chief of the Department of Family Practice at St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way. She is a consumer healthcare advocate, and her books, "Healthcare On a Budget" and "Common Medical Sense", are available on Visit her website,, or call her office at 253-568-0841.

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