Are Migraines a Symptom of COVID-19
Migraines are a common symptom of COVID-19 that may persist during or after infection

Although the main symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, and shortness of breath, migraines are also a common symptom that may persist during or after infection.

According to the World Health Organization, 14% of people with COVID-19 experience headaches.

What causes migraines with COVID-19?

Headache is the most common and usually the first neurological symptom of COVID-19, although the exact effect of coronavirus disease on the nervous system remains controversial.

Neurological symptoms occur through several possible mechanisms:

  • Direct involvement of the nervous system through involvement of the trigeminal nerve (cranial nerve):
    • Infection of the trigeminal nerve via the virus
    • Stimulation of trigeminal nerve endings via invasion of the blood vessels
    • Release of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines
  • Inflammatory response of the body
  • Stress caused by the virus
  • Immune-mediated post-inflammatory complications
  • Mechanism secondary to lung damage and systemic disease
  • Headache associated with fever, congestion, and other symptoms of COVID-19

What symptoms are associated with COVID-19 migraines?

Migraines associated with COVID-19 are similar to tension-type headaches and are often described as a bilateral (as opposed to typical unilateral migraine headache) pressing or distressing pain.

Symptoms associated with COVID-19 migraines include:

COVID-19 may cause new-onset headache or may exaggerate headache in people who already have a history of migraine.

Typical signs of COVID-19 associated headaches include:

  • Secondary headache caused by an underlying condition
  • Moderate to severe intensity
  • Bilateral in nature
  • Pulsating, throbbing, or pressing pain
  • Exaggerates with stress and physical activity
  • May occur along with other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or increased sensitivity to noise and light
  • Unresponsive to over-the-counter drugs or medications that are used to treat acute migraine pain
  • Not preceded by aura as opposed to a typical migraine attack

How long does headache last in COVID-19?

Headache duration differs from person to person, lasting for a few days or sometimes weeks after the initial infection. 

In some cases, headaches may persist for months, where it may be termed long COVID-19.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus. People at a risk of severe complications include those who:

  • Are older than 65
  • Have underlying heart, kidney, or liver diseases
  • Suffer from obesity, diabetes, respiratory conditions or weak immune systems

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with COVID-19 may experience a range of symptoms 5-6 days after exposure to the virus. However, it can take up to 14 days for symptoms to start (incubation period).

Other than headache, COVID-19 may present with symptoms such as:

Although COVID-19 most affects the lungs, the virus can also cause damage to other organs such as the heart, kidneys, skin, and brain. Some people report symptoms such as bluish toes, hair loss, joint pain, and scratchy throat long after the infection is cleared from the body. Moreover, some people report increased levels of liver enzymes, signaling liver damage.

What preventive measures can be taken with COVID-19?

The majority of people infected with coronavirus can recover at home, with or without medications. Measures that can help prevent the spread of the virus include the following:

  • Self-isolate at home if you have been in contact with an infected person
  • Monitor yourself for symptoms such as fever and sore throat
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Stay hydrated
  • Eat a healthy and nutritious diet
  • Take over-the-counter medications if needed:
  • Get vaccinated as recommended

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Medically Reviewed on 2/22/2022
References
Image Source:

The unusual course of a migraine attack during COVID-19 infection. NIH: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8101002/

Deena Kuruvilla. How has Covid-19 affected people with migraine. Medscape: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/950452#:~:text=COVID%2D19%20and%20Headache,what%20resembles%20tension%2Dtype%20headache.

Headaches and Covid-19. Cleveland Clinic: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/long-covid-headaches/