If You Have a Headache, Do This Before Taking OTC Meds, Study Says


Many Americans are in the habit of reaching for over-the-counter (OTC) medication at the first sign of any ailments. The problem is, taking pain relievers for a headache without understanding where the pain is coming from means you're treating the symptom, not the cause. Health experts suggest taking one simple step to help your headache subside before downing OTC medication like Tylenol or Advil. Keep reading to find out what you should try first, and for more on common pain relievers, This Is When You Should Take Tylenol Instead of Advil, Doctors Say.

Drink water, because you could be dehydrated.

A recent survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Essentia Water found that people tend to reach for OTC medication to treat symptoms that are commonly associated with dehydration rather than drink a glass of water. According to the survey, 63 percent of people tend to take a pain reliever when they experience discomfort. And that's all many of them are doing for headaches—43 percent of people said they reach for an OTC medication, while only 16 percent said they have a glass of water. Experts note that headaches and other common symptoms of dehydration can frequently be reminded by drinking water.

"Often when we feel fatigued or a headache coming on, we think we need to eat (or reach for medication), but really we need to drink," said Essentia Water Health & Wellness Advisor Dana Cohen, MD. "Researchers speculate that these ill effects are your brain's built-in 'alarm system,' tipping you off to the fact that your body needs hydration ASAP." And for more meds to reconsider, If You Can't Sleep, This Common Medication Could Be Why, Study Says.

Dehydration symptoms are very common.

Common symptoms of dehydration include headache, dizziness, dry mouth or skin, fatigue, constipation, and indigestion. According to the survey, the average person has experienced two headaches, three muscle cramps, and two dizzy spells in the last week alone. These are all common symptoms of chronic dehydration.

If you regularly take OTC medication to curtail your symptoms without drinking enough water, you're not addressing the problem, which can allow these symptoms to carry on. And for more on what you shouldn't be imbibing, If You're Swallowing Your Medication With This, Stop Immediately.

Drinking water is rarely the first thing people do to address discomfort.

While water can often be a simple solution to discomfort, people don't tend to turn to it. When faced with headache, dizziness, or fatigue, drinking water was only the third-most common thing people did to try to remedy their ailment, with less than 19 percent of people saying they had a glass of water to help alleviate symptoms. Other actions that are more commonly used to address symptoms include OTC medication, lying down, and turning off the lights. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Americans aren't drinking enough water on the whole.

The survey showed that Americans tend to be under-hydrating themselves. Half of people confessed that they're not hydrating as much as they should. Of those, 36 percent said they're forgetful about drinking water, and 30 percent complained that the recommended daily intake of water, which is about half a gallon, is too much. And for more habits to change, If You're Taking This OTC Medicine More Than Twice a Week, See a Doctor.