It would be simple to dismiss your excruciating headache as the result of seasonal allergies or foregoing your daily cup of coffee under normal conditions. However, it is now very reasonable to question whether your headache is an indication of COVID-19. Are COVID headaches real?
After all, COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, and other respiratory viruses like the common cold or influenza frequently cause headaches. However, headaches are exceedingly frequent and have a variety of causes.
However, studies have linked COVID to headaches, and doctors are already noticing this in their patients. Although it is frequently not the presenting symptom, the virus can cause headaches, according to Amit Sachdev, M.D., associate medical director for the Michigan State University department of neurology and ophthalmology. What you need to know about the connection between headaches and COVID-19 is provided here.
Is a headache a typical COVID-19 of symptom?
Although headache is in the CDC’s official list of typical symptoms of the virus, most people identify COVID-19 with fever, coughing, and shortness of breath:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
These are the most typical symptoms of COVID-19 if you’re immunized, according to recent data from the ZOE COVID Study, which encourages participants to register their symptoms via an app:
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Blocked nose
- Persistent cough
But according to the ZOE COVID Study, the most typical symptom of the virus was a headache for those who had not received the COVID-19 vaccine or had only received one dose.
Why does COVID-19 occasionally give people headaches?
According to infectious disease specialist and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., patients frequently have headaches after contracting a respiratory infection. It is most likely the outcome of the body’s ongoing systemic inflammation, he claims.
According to William Schaffner, M.D., an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, when you have a viral infection, your body produces an immune response to combat it. According to him, your immune system then releases cytokines, which are proteins that can lead to fever, inflammation, and headaches. When you combine that with elements like poor sleep, insufficient dietary intake, and inadequate hydration when sick, you may have headache pain.
Another hypothesis is that the coronavirus may actually penetrate the cerebrospinal fluid, which could result in a headache. Nevertheless, there is still plenty about the virus that is unknown to experts, and additional proof is required.
What does a headache from COVID feel like?
There isn’t much information available about the symptoms of a coronavirus headache, but according to Dr. Schaffner, most viruses tend to cause headaches that worsen at night and are frequently accompanied by a fever.
The sensation can differ from person to person, according to Thomas Russo, M.D., professor and director of infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo in New York. The COVID-19 and COVID headache that his wife recently experienced, which she characterized as a “dull headache” that lasted for five days, were both COVID, though.
It did respond to treatment, although NSAIDs had a better effect than acetaminophen, according to Dr. Russo. If she didn’t cure it, it would come back, especially at night or in the evening.
How long does a headache from COVID last?
According to Dr. Russo, it can “wax and wane,” noting that COVID-19 symptoms in general may be like this. “It could gradually grow better, but then you might have times when the symptoms reappear,” he explains.
Could the only symptom of COVID-19 be a headache?
It’s conceivable, but Dr. Schaffner says it’s more likely that you’ll also experience additional symptoms like a fever and cough in addition to your headache.
However, it’s important to take notice if you suddenly developed a persistent headache and you’re also feeling unwell. “There needs to be a strong suspicion for COVID-19 if a person gets any symptom normally associated with a viral illness,” says Richard Watkins, M.D., an infectious disease specialist and professor of internal medicine at Northeast Ohio Medical University.
However, the only way to be certain is to either test for COVID-19 on your own or have testing ordered by your doctor.
What can you do right now to get your headache under control?
You may recall hearing rumours a long back that taking ibuprofen while suffering from COVID-19 would make matters worse. However, the results of a thorough investigation on the impact of NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, on people with viral respiratory infections, such as COVID-19, were later made public by the WHO. According to the paper, there is “no evidence” that NSAID use worsened the infection.
When it comes to treating headaches associated with COVID-19, according to Dr. Adalja, the standard headache treatments should be helpful. He believes that it can be treated with medications like aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen. According to Dr. Adalja, COVID-19 headaches “often last many hours,” but over-the-counter pain relievers should assist minimize that period.
According to Dr. Russo, ibuprofen generally works better for treating headaches than acetaminophen (often known as Tylenol). The doctor advises, “You can try starting with Tylenol, but be aware that it may not work.” Ibuprofen typically functions better.
It’s also crucial to keep in mind that COVID-19 may not be the cause of your headache. For instance, stopping your customary cup of coffee or consuming less caffeine than usual can result in a headache, according to Dr. Russo. He notes that caffeine is a widely used headache trigger.
When should you make a doctor’s appointment for a headache?
According to Brian Gerhardstein, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of neurology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, “there are some indications that COVID-19 might be related to more serious neurological conditions, such as blood clotting, stroke, or infections of the brain.” You should seek medical assistance if you experience any worrying or increasing headaches, as well as any other medical or neurological concerns, as these could potentially result in symptoms like headaches.
According to Dr. Watkins, if you ever believe your symptoms could be related to COVID-19, don’t wait to notify your doctor. He or she should be able to decide whether you are eligible for a COVID-19 test if your headache doesn’t seem to be improving or if it worsens along with other symptoms, such as a fever or cough, or they should be able to provide you with instructions on how to recover at home if your condition is considered mild.
Dr. Adalja advises “seeking rapid assistance” if your headache is accompanied by slurred speech or blurred vision, regardless of whether you have COVID-19. It can be caused by COVID-19 or by something else different.