When to Visit the ER for a Headache

For the majority of people, the occasional headache shouldn’t cause concern. However, the sudden onset of a prolonged headache may require a visit to the emergency department.

If you’re not sure whether your headache requires emergency care, consider these guidelines.

If You Have These Symptoms, You May Require Emergency Care

If you experience the sudden onset of a headache that interferes with daily tasks or is debilitating, you should immediately visit the closest emergency department. If the headache is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, you should also seek emergency care.

  • Difficulty walking
  • Fever
  • Severe pain that begins suddenly
  • Other neurological symptoms, including weakness, numbness, slurred speech and blurred vision

If You Have These Medical Conditions, You May Require Emergency Care

For individuals with certain medical histories, experiencing a headache could potentially indicate a more serious issue. If you have any of these medical conditions, and you experience a severe, debilitating headache, you should visit an emergency department.

Women who use oral contraceptives have an increased risk of blood clots, which may cause headaches. This is particularly true for women who smoke.  

  • Follows a head injury 
  • A recent injury or trauma
  • Use of blood thinners

HealthONE has 12 full-service emergency departments in the Denver metro area, so you’re certain to find an ER that is close to home and able to help you. Our hospitals strive to beat the national average wait time, so you can get quick access to high-quality emergency medical care.

ERs in Metro Denver


View HealthONE Emergency Rooms in a larger map

Emergency Room Care / Denver ERs

The Medical Center of Aurora
Saddle Rock ER 
Centennial Medical Plaza
North Suburban Medical Center
North Suburban Northeast ER
North Suburban Northwest ER
Presbyterian / St. Luke's Medical Center
Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at P/SL
Rose Medical Center
Sky Ridge Medical Center
Swedish Medical Center
Swedish Southwest ER