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10 Dehydration Headache Symptoms & How to Find Relief

Is your headache a dehydration headache or something else? Learn the symptoms of dehydration headaches, how long they last, and the best ways to get relief fast.


Dehydration Headaches Defined


Headaches are a common cause of pain. Most of us will experience headaches, which occur for a variety of reasons, including being dehydrated. Dehydration happens when we take in less fluid than we’re losing. We lose fluid when we sweat and urinate. Most Americans aren’t getting enough fluids from drinking and eating, so dehydration headaches can result, especially when it’s hot and humid.


You might be wondering why dehydration causes headaches. When we aren’t adequately hydrated, our body’s tissues contract; this includes the tissues of the brain. As brain tissues pull away from the skull, the resulting pressure on nerves creates the pain we associate with headaches. Dehydration headache locations can be all over the head, or at one spot like the front, back, or sides of the head. The pain from a dehydration headache can be mild or extreme. How long does a dehydration headache last? Anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours, once proper hydration is restored.


10 Symptoms of a Dehydration Headache

While headaches can occur for different reasons, like tension or migraines, dehydration headaches differentiate themselves with some unique symptoms. You know you’ve got one if you experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth or sticky mouth
  • Extreme thirst
  • Dark urine/decreased need to urinate
  • Muscle cramps
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cool, dry skin
  • Dull, sharp, or pulsating ache in the head
  • Pain worsens when moving head or bending down


Other ways to know dehydration is the culprit for your headache include the pain being confined to the head (since other types of headaches can spread to the neck and shoulders), and if water and rest make the headache better.


Remedies and Relief

It’s easy to forget to drink enough water and become dehydrated. We can also dehydrate when we sweat heavily, drink too much alcohol, are at high altitudes, are ill with diarrhea and vomiting, or take diuretics. The good news is dehydration headache treatments can bring quick relief. Here are some ways to find relief from the pain:

  • Drink fluids: Small sips of water, sucking ice cubes, or electrolyte drinks will restore hydration and plump your body tissues.
  • Rest: Find a cool, shady spot to relax and recover.
  • Ice: A cool compress on your forehead will soothe pain.
  • Pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain relief from ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), acetaminophen (Tylenol), or aspirin will lessen pain. But avoid pain relievers containing caffeine as this can worsen dehydration.
  • IV fluids: In cases of severe dehydration, IV fluids can be administered at a hospital, local clinic, or by a qualified medical professional.


When to See a Doctor for Dehydration

For certain populations, dehydration can be extremely dangerous. Babies, young children, the elderly, and those with chronic illnesses like diabetes are especially vulnerable to the effects of dehydration. Lethargy, confusion, dizziness, and fainting are indicators to seek medical help.


If the remedies described above, particularly rest and hydration, don’t provide relief, your headache may be the result of something other than dehydration and should be checked out. Some people suffer from chronic dehydration, which can lead to heat exhaustion, kidney stones, and UTIs.


Can dehydration cause migraines? While migraines have no known cause, it is true that dehydration migraines can occur. If you are prone to migraines, which involve severe pain on one side of the head, vomiting, and visual auras, try to avoid the trigger of dehydration.


Recover Safely with American Family Care


If you notice the symptoms of dehydration in elderly or very young family members, seek help at American Family Care. With pediatric services, primary care, and urgent care, we’ve got your whole family covered. We provide the right care, right now, at a clinic near you. You don’t even need an appointment. Find a location today.

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