Headaches & Covid-19
As the global pandemic of Covid-19 continues to spread, there are legitimate concerns about the risk posed by the virus. While the vast majority of cases result in only mild symptoms, there is a small risk of more serious complications, including headaches. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the link between Covid-19 and headaches, and explore some tips for reducing your risk of developing this complication.
What is the connection between COVID-19 and headache?
COVID-19 presents with headaches as one of its symptoms. This virus behaves differently than a lot of other viruses. And one of the first symptoms that people have, before they develop a cough, is they will get anosmia, which is a lack of sense of smell. They can get a horrible headache at that time. Sometimes the cough doesn’t come until a couple of days later.
COVID-19 headaches: when do they occur?
An average headache can last anywhere from three to five days, especially at the start of an illness. COVID-related headaches, however, can last for long periods of time, and are frequently reported among those who have Post-COVID syndrome (Long-COVID).
Characteristics of COVID-19 headaches
- Moderate to severe in intensity
- Causes a pulsing or pressing sensation
- Occurs on both sides of your head (bilateral)
- May get worse when you bend over
A WHO report that looked at over 55,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 found that a headache was reported in 13.6 percent of these cases.
Skull-pounding headaches can continue for weeks or even months after you test positive for COVID-19, with around-the-clock pain separated only by periods of agonizing and extreme spikes.
Symptoms of COVID-19 headaches
COVID-19 related headaches were more closely associated with anosmia/ageusia and gastrointestinal complaints, and showed different characteristics like pulsating, pressing, and even stabbing quality.
The proportion of people with COVID-19 who had bilateral, long-lasting headaches, analgesic resistance, and male gender was higher in conjunction with anosmia/ageusia and gastrointestinal symptoms. These features may be helpful for diagnosing the headache related to COVID-19 during the pandemic.
Difference between COVID-19 headache & migraine
For people who have migraine attacks, a COVID-19 headache has also been described as moderate to severe. However, unlike headaches resulting from migraine, it doesn’t occur with other common migraine symptoms, such as sensitivity to light and sound.
It may seem as if COVID-19 headache looks like a migraine attack, but they are actually two different headache types:
A migraine attack is a primary headache. Changes to nerve signaling or neurotransmitter levels, such as serotonin, are thought to cause it. Genetics and the environment may also play a role.
COVID-19 headache is a secondary headache. It is a symptom of another underlying disease (in this case, COVID-19).
Causes of COVID-19 headaches
As a result of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) binding to ACE2 on trigeminal nerve endings within the nasal cavity, COVID-19 headaches are likely caused by vascular activation, systemic inflammation, and increased cytokines. It is likely that this is the reason behind the loss of taste and smell as well. The level of viral load and infection in the nasal cavity near the cranial nerves, as well as the immune response, can all play a role in whether these symptoms develop or not.
Here are the quick facts you need to know about headaches and COVID-19
- Headaches usually occur at the beginning of the condition.
- The average headache lasts 3 to 5 days.
- COVID-19 is associated with headaches in about 70% of adults and 60% of children.
- About 15% of people with COVID-19 said that their only symptom was a headache.
Treatment for COVID-19 headaches
Headaches can be mild, moderate, or severe. Symptoms of headache will often resolve on their own, but others may require medical attention.
Here are a few tips for dealing with headaches:
- Resting in a dark room
- Massaging the head
- Using hot or cold compresses
- Taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain relief medications, such as ibuprofen
Headaches after the COVID-19 vaccine
According to the CDC, headaches are common after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Other common symptoms include: pain, flushed skin, and swelling at the injection site, tiredness, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea.
Headache treatments after COVID-19
As COVID-19 is a relatively new disease, experts are still searching for the best treatments for lingering headaches. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, some patients will get better on their own over time, but for those with more persistent symptoms, probably the thing found to be the most effective might be to put them on a course of steroids.
The COVID-19 virus can cause headaches. There is current evidence, however, that this symptom is less common than other COVID-19 symptoms like fever, cough, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
COVID-19 headache has been reported in both the early and later stages of illness, sometimes occurring along with fever. It’s been described as a pulsing headache that’s moderate to severe in intensity, often affecting both sides of the head.
If you develop a headache and suspect you may have developed COVID-19, isolate yourself at home and contact your doctor.