Red Flag Symptoms

Certain features of the presentation may be regarded as ‘red flags’.

These significantly increase the risk that there is a secondary cause for the headache and, therefore, further investigation is warranted.

These are:

  • Headache in someone >50 years
  • Thunderclap headache (headache reaching maximum intensity within 60 seconds of onset)
  • Headaches increasing in severity and frequency
  • Headache with fever, neck stiffness, or reduced level of consciousness
  • Focal neurological symptoms or signs
  • Papilloedema
  • Headache after trauma
  • Loos of vision/ amaurosis fugax
  • Immunocompromised, Malignancy

Learning bite

The presence of any ‘red flag’ feature mandates further investigation of a patient presenting with headache.

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