Headaches Caused by a Lack of Oxygen

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Cluster headaches, severe migraines, altitude sickness and carbon monoxide poisoning may have something in common--headaches caused by lack of oxygen. This may also explain why some people who suffer from panic attacks get headaches during those attacks, because when scared, the person begins to hyperventilate.

Identification

  • Headaches caused by oxygen deprivation can cause not only pain in the head and eyes, but nausea, dizziness and confusion. The most severe pain is with cluster headaches.

Warning

  • Sudden headache and confusion are also symptoms of a stroke. When in doubt, call for emergency medical help.

Prevention

  • Carbon monoxide detectors can help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Some migraines can be prevented by avoiding certain triggers such as flashing lights.

Treatment

  • Breathing from oxygen tanks has been known to help ease the severe pain of cluster headaches and migraines that do not respond to medication. It also helps with carbon monoxide poisoning.

Speculation

  • When the body is deprived of oxygen, it sends out a number of distress signals in order to get the attention of the consciousness to give it more oxygen. This could be one of the causes of cluster headaches.

Traveling

  • Rick Curtis, the director of the Outdoor Action Program, recommends that travelers to elevation go no more than 10,000 feet on the first day and only 1,000 feet each day after. The body will have time to adjust to the thin atmosphere.

References

  • Photo Credit "Drupal headache" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: Jacob Bøtter under the Creative Commons Attribution license.
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