Headache is a potential symptom of COVID-19 and can also occur after getting vaccinated. COVID-19 headaches typically last for a few days, although the duration depends on your age, immune system, and overall health condition.
Doctors report that patients may complain of headache even after testing negative for COVID-19. According to new research, headache is a key COVID-19 symptom that predicts clinical progression of the disease. Headache can occur during the pre-symptomatic and symptomatic stages of COVID-19 and can sometimes mimic tension or migraine headaches.
It is unclear why some people with COVID-19 experience headaches while others do not. Even though studies show that headache is not a common symptom, it affects about 14% of people infected with the virus and appears to be the most reported symptom among people under age 40.
Why does COVID-19 cause headaches?
Your immune system reacts to viruses like the COVID-19 virus by attacking the cells, which can lead to symptoms such as headache.
- Immune cells release proteins called cytokines, which cause inflammation, fever, headache, and fatigue.
- Physical discomfort of coughing and blowing your nose can also lead to headache.
- Anxiety, lack of sleep, inadequate hydration or nutrition, etc. can also contribute to the development of headaches.
In some cases, headache may not be a symptom of the illness but instead related to another underlying medical condition.
How can I manage headache symptoms with COVID-19?
COVID-19-related headache may be relieved with:
What painkillers can I take for COVID-19 headache?
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), particularly ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, and mefenamic acid, have been shown to be safe and effective in clinical trials of symptomatic headache treatment. Despite recent media reports claiming that certain NSAIDs, most notably ibuprofen, may be linked to worsened COVID-19 symptoms, there is no conclusive scientific evidence that the use of NSAIDs aggravates COVID-19 infection.
In general, NSAIDs are highly effective in treating headaches. Acetaminophen and triptans are also considered safe for treating migraine-like headaches caused by COVID-19. Using steroids, however, for mild headaches can suppress the immune system and make people more susceptible to infections, including COVID-19 infection.
If you are experiencing headache with COVID-19, consult about which pain relievers to take. They will carefully evaluate the use of steroids and determine the dosage and duration in your case following treatment standards. To lessen the risk of infection, it is now suggested that the number of days on steroid medication be reduced.
What are other symptoms COVID-19?
According to some studies, COVID-19 may have more than 20 symptoms. Of course, having one or more of these symptoms does not guarantee you have COVID-19, as they can be caused by other illnesses. However, these symptoms have been reported more frequently by people who tested positive for the virus:
- Fever (mild to moderate)
- Chills or shivers
- Persistent cough
- Anosmia (loss of smell)
- Dysgeusia (loss of taste)
- Headache (mild to moderate and similar to migraine in rare cases)
- Fatigue (unusual tiredness)
- Sore throat
- Brain fog (sudden confusion, especially in older people)
- Skin rashes
- Changes in the mouth or tongue (dry mouth, fungal infection, oral thrush), swelling in the mouth, and ulcers on the tongue or inner surface of the mouth and lips
- Red and sore fingers or toes (chilblains appearing as reddish and purplish bumps on the fingers or toes, as well as on the palms)
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or tightness
- Muscle pain
- Change in voice
- Food aversions
- Abdominal pain
- Runny nose
If you exhibit 7 or more of these symptoms, you may need to isolate yourself.
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Uygun Ö, Ertas M, Ekizoglu E, Bolay H, Özge A, Kocasoy Orhan E, Çagatay AA, Baykan B. Headache characteristics in COVID-19 pandemic-a survey study. J Headache Pain. 2020 Oct 13;21(1):121. https://thejournalofheadacheandpain.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s10194-020-01188-1
Belvis R. Headaches During COVID-19: My Clinical Case and Review of the Literature. Headache. 2020;60(7):1422-1426. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7273035/
Medical News Today. Can COVID-19 cause headaches? https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/covid-headache
Healthline. Is a Headache a Common Symptom of COVID-19? https://www.healthline.com/health/is-headache-a-sign-of-coronavirus
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