A dehydration headache can be termed as a secondary headache. It is caused by not having enough water or fluid present in the body. Dehydration headaches can range from being relatively mild or moderate to even being severe enough as a migraine. So what exactly is a dehydration headache and how do you recognize and treat a dehydration headache? Are there any ways to prevent dehydration headache?
What Causes Dehydration Headaches?
Your body requires an appropriate balance of electrolytes and fluids in order to function properly. Through our daily activities like urinating and sweating, our body loses a lot of water every day. While most of the time the amount of fluid or water that is lost is easily balanced by eating water rich foods or by drinking sufficient water, sometimes your body loses water faster than it can be replenished by us. For example, on a particularly hot day or during an intense exercising session, you tend to sweat more than usual and lose more bodily fluids than you would on a typical day. Or there may be other causes of dehydration headache like sickness or overexertion. It is during these times that the body may become dehydrated, leading to complications. One of these unpleasant complications include dehydration headaches.
Lack of adequate hydration and electrolyte imbalance creates pressure around the brain, which causes pain, resulting in dehydration headache.
actors that are the commonest contributing causes of dehydration headache include:
- Extreme sweating
- Excess urination
There are also several risk factors that increase the risk of becoming dehydrated. People who are at a higher risk of becoming dehydrated include:
- Young children and/or infants
- People living in higher altitudes
- Elderly people
- People who take medications that cause increased urination
- People having chronic lifestyle diseases such as diabetes or kidney disease
- People living in hot climates
- Endurance athletes
How to Recognize a Dehydration Headache?
There are many different types of headaches and many people tend to experience several types of a headache over the course of their life. So, how to recognize a dehydration headache? A dehydration headache can feel like an intense migraine or it can also feel like a dull, throbbing pain in the head. Pain caused from a dehydration headache can occur not just in the back of the head, but it may also occur in the front, the side, or it may even be spread out all over the head.
However, unlike a sinus headache, when you experience a dehydration headache, you will not experience any associated facial pain or pressure. You will also unlikely feel any pain in the back of the neck as it happens with a tension headache or with a migraine headache. This may be way to recognize a dehydration headache, however, for some, this type of headache may spread all over the head and surrounding areas.
Dehydration headaches only occur when the body is dehydrated. This is why symptoms of dehydration will also occur with this type of a headache. In order to recognize a dehydration headache, you need to watch out for the following symptoms:
- Dark colored urine
- Reduced urination
- Feeling extremely thirsty
- State of confusion
- Dry and sticky feeling in the mouth
- Low blood pressure
- Loss of skin elasticity
- Increased heart rate
As each person is different, the occurrence of a dehydration headache also differs from person to person. While some people may experience a dehydration headache only if they are severely dehydrated, others may not experience a headache at all. Yet others may experience a dehydration headache at even a lower level of dehydration. The intensity of dehydration headache too varies from person to person.
Further symptoms of severe dehydration that may cause a dehydration headache may include:
- Sunken eyes
- Lack of sweating
- Shriveled skin
For some people, a dehydration headache may also feel like a hangover headache, having a pulsating pain on both sides of the head, which is further aggravated when you do any physical activity. Some may be more sensitive to light and sound as well, while some may feel hungry, thirsty or sleepy.
A recent survey published in a journal Headache found that out of the participants who were interviewed, 1 in every 10 people have experienced a dehydration headache. All these participants described a dehydration headache as a dull ache that worsened when they bent down, moved their heads, or walked around. They also said that they experience total relief from a dehydration headache within 30 minutes to 3 hours of drinking water.
Another study published in the Headache journal was done on people who suffer from a chronic migraine. This particular study found that 34 out of the 95 participants believed dehydration to be a trigger for migraine headaches.
How to Treat a Dehydration Headache?
Managing headache and dehydration is the best way to treat a dehydration headache. If you are suffering from a dehydration headache, then you can try the following remedies to get relief:
- Increase your fluid intake – this may include water or even juices. This is the best way to treat a dehydration headache.
- Replace lost electrolytes through a sports drink if you are an athlete or if you are working out
- Avoid stepping out in the heat to reduce losing fluid through sweating and keep replacing with oral rehydration solution
- Decrease physical activity temporarily till you feel better
These measures help treat the dehydration, but it may take a while to get complete relief from a dehydration headache. For faster relief from pain, some people find relief by taking over-the-counter pain relieving medicines.
In cases of severe dehydration caused by diarrhea or vomiting, home remedies may not be enough and you may need to seek medical care immediately.
Severe dehydration can cause some serious complications, including:
- Kidney damage
In emergencies, doctors will manage cases of severe dehydration with salt replacement therapy or with intravenous fluid. While these are the commonest ways to treat a dehydration headache, the best way to manage this condition is to prevent it from occurring.
How to Prevent a Dehydration Headache?
You can take the following steps to prevent a dehydration headache.
- Drink plenty of fluid: Typically, adults need to consume 5 to 7 glasses of water every day, though some people who suffer from certain medical conditions may need to consume more or less depending on their health.
- Consume fluid-rich foods: It is a good idea to consume fluid-rich foods such as citrus fruits, cucumbers, watermelons, and other fruits and vegetables that are high in water content.
- Spread out your consumption of fluids:Spreading out your consumption of fluids throughout the day will help you get the requisite amount of fluids through the day and keep you well hydrated.
- Treat any underlying cause of dehydration: Infections and fevers are likely to cause dehydration as it causes a loss of more fluid than you normally would. Treating the underlying cause of dehydration and at the same time increasing your fluid intake will help prevent a dehydration headache.
Following these easy steps will help prevent dehydration headaches.
Now that you know how to recognize a dehydration headache and ways to treat and prevent it, you can manage the condition better. However, if you find yourself experiencing more than an occasional dehydration headache or if there are other associated complaints, then it is advisable to consult your physician for proper evaluation.