Almost everyone suffers from dehydration headaches from time to time and we all have different ways of coping with it. In reality, there are many factors that can cause this miserable pain. Nevertheless, a large part of the population opts for what they consider to be the quick and simple solution: medication.
Interestingly, often when the cause is unknown, the recommended treatment is also the simplest, inexpensive, and safest: drinking water. That said, headaches caused by tension or other medical reasons may require different treatment. In any case, it never hurts to stay hydrated.
This is because dehydration can lead to headaches, as well as other symptoms. So taking a acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or another anti-inflammatory drug won’t solve the problem. If dehydration is the reason for your headache and the pain lessens after taking medication, the water you took it with may have been more helpful than the medication itself.
Identifying Dehydration Headaches
Dehydration headache is a secondary headache caused by a lack of body fluid. They can range from a relatively mild headache to as severe as a migraine.
This is because our bodies need the right balance of fluids and electrolytes to function properly. Our bodies lose fluids every day in different ways, such as by sweating and urinating. So dehydration headaches can occur after sweating or when our bodies lose essential fluids. Fluid loss can be caused by strenuous exercise or by being in a hot climate. Of course, these headaches can also occur if you just don’t drink enough fluids.
Usually, drinking liquids or eating foods rich in fluids simply restores fluid balance. However, sometimes the body loses water faster than it can be replenished.
When your body is dehydrated, the brain contracts or contracts temporarily due to fluid loss. This can cause a separation between the brain and skull resulting in pain and headaches from dehydration. The brain returns to its normal state once it is rehydrated, thus relieving the headache.
Symptoms of Dehydration Headache
Dehydration headaches can feel like a dull headache or an intense migraine. This pain can occur in the front, back, sides, or the entire head.
Unlike sinus headaches, a person experiencing dehydration headaches is unlikely to experience pressure or facial pain. They are also unlikely to have pain in the back of their neck, as tension headaches can cause.
Following are the symptoms that may coincide with a dehydration headache:
- Urinating less.
- Dark urine.
- Dry, sticky mouth.
- Loss of skin elasticity.
- Low bloodpressure.
- Increased heart rate.
Some people only experience headaches when they are severely dehydrated. They may also experience other symptoms such as lack of sweating, fever, sunken eyes, and shriveled skin, among others.
Prevent headaches from dehydration
Staying well hydrated is the best way to avoid headaches caused by dehydration. If you often suffer from headaches, this preventive measure can significantly improve your quality of life. But how much water should you drink to stay hydrated? The temperature, your activity level and your own body weight can affect how much water you should drink each day.
Mobile apps are a great way to help you remember to drink plenty of water. There are many free apps available. Find one that uses your weight, activity level, and temperature to calculate the amount of water you need. Keeping track of the fluids you drink during the day can help ensure you’re getting the recommended amount.
When a headache has another cause
Tension, poor posture, and stress often cause headaches, among other factors. Regular exercise and relaxation exercises are two great ways to prevent or relieve headaches. Personally, I recommend an option that combines both: yoga.
In either case, if the pain persists, increases in intensity, or is extreme, see your doctor to determine the cause of your headache. Remember that regardless of the reason why you have a headache, it is important to address the cause and that medicines generally only relieve the symptoms.