does dehydration cause headaches does dehydration cause headaches

Why Does Dehydration Cause Headaches? 5 Effective Treatments

In this stressful and busy life, headaches and migraines are pretty common. But what exactly are the triggers, and does dehydration cause headaches as well?

Headaches are among the most well-known factors of distress that can negatively influence everyday life. But do you know what the fundamental indications that dehydration might be the reason behind a headache are?

There are various distinct types of headaches. Most adults suffer from headaches at some point, even if they don’t become a regular occurrence.

Why Does Dehydration Cause Headache

Many kinds of headaches are easily treated and can be pretty simple to avoid. Among those kinds, dehydration headaches are widespread. And with this guide, you will be able to get the answers to does dehydration cause headaches along with its symptoms and treatment.

1. What is a Dehydration Headache?

Before you find out the answer to “does dehydration cause headaches?”, you will need to understand what a dehydration headache is. Human bodies need plenty of water to function properly, and the lack of the required amount of water is known as dehydration.

And the headaches caused and triggered by the lack of water are called dehydration headaches. A dehydration headache occurs when you are dehydrated due to a lack of fluids. Headaches and migraines frequently happen with other dehydration indications, including dizziness, extreme thirst, and dry mouth. The pain generally stops after drinking water, getting enough fluids, resting, and taking prescribed medication.

Drinking Water
Image by congerdesign from Pixabay Copyright 2017

You can also suffer from headaches even from very mild dehydration; therefore, always providing your body with the necessary fluids1 is extremely important.

The good news is that most of the time, dehydration headaches get better with simple home remedies such as drinking water, getting some rest, and taking pain medications. However, in case you experience symptoms of serious dehydration, like confusion and feeling faint, you must get medical help as soon as possible.

Medical and health professionals are not sure about the number of people suffering from dehydration headaches. Inadequacy of liquids can lead to dehydration, which in turn triggers headaches and migraines. Infants, children, and aged adults have an increased chance of dehydration. Individuals with specific health disorders like diabetes are also more susceptible.

2. Symptoms, Causes, and Prevention of Dehydration Headaches

To answer the question – does dehydration cause headaches, the factual answer is yes. Proper lack of fluids and water can trigger headaches and migraines, which can hurt your daily life.

But there is much more to know about dehydration headaches, their symptoms, causes, prevention, and treatment.

2.1) The Symptoms of Dehydration Headaches

Pain and discomfort due to a dehydration headache can vary from mild to extreme. You may experience agony all over your skull or in only a single area, like the end, front, or side. The pain is generally similar to a dull throb, but it can also become pretty intense.

You may experience a pulsing headache, or the distress might get consistent. The pain can get severe when you perform some tasks or try the movements like bending over, shaking your head, or walking.

Along with these, you will find many more dehydration warnings2 that also happen with the pain in the head. Some such dehydration symptoms are:

  • A darker hue of urine and a reduced need to urinate
  • Facial Pain
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Dryness in the mouth
  • Exhaustion
  • Reduced appetite
  • Extreme Sweating
  • Cramps

Syncope, blue lips, and blotchy skin are severe symptoms of dehydration, and in such cases, the patient should be immediately given proper medical attention.

Image by Mahbub Hasan from Pixabay Copyright 2022

2.2) How Does Dehydration Cause Headaches?

As you can gather from the name itself, dehydration headaches occur simply due to a lack of the required body fluids.

When you don’t get enough water and fluids, your brain, along with other tissues in your body, shrinks. And when your brain contracts, it gets pulled away from the skull. Due to this, the pressure gets applied to your nerves which in turn causes pain.

Even the mildest of dehydration can result in a headache or migraine. When you consume proper nutrients, drink water, and the necessary fluids, your brain returns to its earlier volume, and therefore, the pain also goes away.

To address the question of does dehydration cause headaches, the short and precise answer is yes. And as to “why does dehydration cause headaches?” – the only explanation is a lack of adequate fluids in the body.3

2.3) How to Prevent Dehydration Headaches? Some Simple Tips

The ideal way to prevent a dehydration headache is to keep well hydrated. So now that you know “how does dehydration cause headaches?” – there are many steps that you can take to avoid such headaches, some of them being:

i) Drinking Water

Drinking plenty of water and fluids is the best way of preventing dehydration4 and, therefore, dehydration headaches. Always keep a water bottle when leaving the house, and remember to take small sips throughout the day.

ii) Always Stay Hydrated

Don’t wait for the thirst to come before taking a sip. Make sure to hydrate before you feel thirsty and drink fluids at regular intervals. Waiting to feel the thirst before drinking water is a sure way to dehydrate.

iii) Replace Lost Fluids

Replacing the fluids you lose is also another critical point. In times of strenuous exercise or physical activities, taking frequent water breaks is very necessary. When you are in the middle of some sports or games, it is easy to forget the needs of the body. So it is essential to remain aware that you can get dehydrated after sweating due to exercise. And replenishing the fluids accordingly is a necessity. As you know, the body loses water faster while performing intense physical activities, so water intake is necessary to avoid a migraine attack.

iv) Resting

Regular and frequent rest breaks are another way to prevent dehydration. Give attention to your body and its needs. If you feel weak, exhausted, or dizzy, immediately take a water break and sit briefly.

v) Protection From Heat

Make sure to have proper protection from the heat. When you are out in hot weather, hydrate more frequently. Take breaks continually, and find a shady area to stay cool and avoid overheating.

Resting in Shade
Image by lomarog from Pixabay Copyright 2016

2.4) When to Seek Medical Help?

The treatments in this guide will get temporary relief and, in many cases, will cure the headache well. But if the symptoms worsen and the headache persists, seek professional help. The instances in which you should get medical attention are:

i) Worsening Pain

Call your physician when you still have a migraine, even after following all the instructions like drinking fluids, resting, and taking pain relief and drugs.

ii) Continual Pain

Regular and recurring headaches and chronic migraines with serious pain can be a symptom of some other severe health problems.

iii) Having Other Symptoms

Such symptoms can include vision problems or blurry vision, dizziness, queasiness, and upset stomach.

Dehydration can also result in serious health issues other than headaches. If you or someone you know show symptoms of dehydration, ensure proper medical help is provided.

Generally, dehydration headaches are not severe and go away on their own. If you are looking for some simple home remedies and relief, read on to find easy ways to treat dehydration headaches.

3. Why Does Dehydration Cause Headaches? 5 Easy Treatments

Caused by a lack of proper nutrients and fluids, dehydration headaches are pretty easy to treat. As mentioned, the human body cannot function with adequate nourishment; therefore, lack of water triggers headaches and other ailments.

Occasionally, dehydration headaches get better given time and with some simple home remedies. To reduce pain due to dehydration and get headache relief, you can try treatments like taking fluids, resting, pain medications, and other remedies for common headaches.

3.1) Drinking Plenty of Water

Try taking little sips of water as gulping down it too fast can make you sick. Remember, since the ailment is caused due to lack of fluids, suddenly giving too much water to your body can shock the system and make you sicker.

You can try gently sucking on ice cubes if you feel sick in your stomach.

The best way to cure the headache pain caused by dehydration is to address the fluid loss. Drinking water or sucking ice cubes are the first things to try for headache treatment.

Image by Olga Oginskaya from Pixabay Copyright 2021

3.2) Electrolyte or Sports Drinks

Electrolyte drinks like sports drinks are also an excellent way to replenish and regulate your fluids. However, since such drinks generally have high amounts of sugar and artificial colors, drinking in moderation is also necessary.

Drinks like Gatorade work in two ways as they address both the pain and the matter of dehydration. They come in several fun colors and flavors like Lemon Lime, Fierce Blue Cherry, Glacier Freeze, and many more.

But remember that dehydration headaches can usually be treated with plenty of fluids and water. So before consuming such sugary colored drinks, try to maintain a proper and healthy diet.

3.3) Relaxing and Resting

One of the best ways to cure headaches is to temporarily avoid physical movement. You will find that even the slightest movements like shaking your head, getting up, or changing position can jar and increase the intensity of pain in your head.

So relaxing and resting is one of the ideal ways to treat migraines and avoid pain.

If you are outside in the sun, try to find a cool shade and relax briefly. Closing your eyes and avoiding intense light or sun rays can also provide some relief. Giving your body enough time to rest and heal would be best.

Image by Silviu on the street from Pixabay Copyright 2021

3.4) Using Ice or Cold Compress

Using a cold compress on your head can give you some much-needed comfort, and the cool temperature of the compress will help relieve the pain.

A soft and wet washcloth is a good alternative if you don’t have a compress. Place the cloth on your forehead; most of the time, you will get almost instant relief. It will probably not cure your headache completely, but it will provide some relief.

3.5) Taking Pain Medications

When all else fails, relief can only come from pain relievers or prescription drugs. However, this one is a tricky area and is better to explore only with the guidance of a medical professional. You must not take strong painkillers without consulting your physician or health professional.

Some of the ordinary and effective painkillers you can use for headaches are ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin. Bufferin, Advil, and Tylenol are all considered to be effective in providing relief from any headache.

Source: Depositphotos

Always ensure that the medication does not contain any caffeine, as it can further increase the dehydrated state of the body. And it is better to take medicine with water or food, as an upset stomach on top of a migraine is not desirable.

Finally, you should consult your doctor or physician if the symptoms of a water deprivation-headache worsen. While these remedies might be effective for mild and moderate levels of headaches, for severe cases, immediate medical attention is needed.

Remember that while these treatments and remedies can be helpful in mild and even moderate cases, the serious ones need immediate and proper treatment. Extremely dehydrated patients will require additional care. Many may even have to get admitted to the hospital to monitor their fluid intake and recovery. Medical professionals usually treat severe dehydration with IV fluids. Giving intravenous fluids is the next step if the fluid consumed is too low.

Another thing to keep in mind while treating dehydration is to avoid caffeinated beverages 5and alcoholic drinks. Those can increase urine output and thus increase the chance of getting dehydrated.

To treat severely dehydrated patients, replenishing fluids are the only solution, along with rest and medication.

Image by Hans from Pixabay Copyright 2012

4. FAQs on Does Dehydration Cause Headaches

Do you still have queries regarding the question, “does dehydration cause headaches?” Please keep reading to find the answers to the most frequently asked questions on dehydration headaches and their treatments.

4.1) Does dehydration cause headaches?

The lack of necessary fluids and water can result in headaches and migraines in many. To function appropriately, human bodies need the right amount of fuel – food and water. Without proper nourishment, the human body fails to operate at its best.

Among the most common effects of dehydration, headaches, and migraines are at the top. Apart from stress and anxiety, dehydration is one of the most well-known reasons behind head pain. By drinking enough water only, you can avoid dehydration headaches.

4.2) How does dehydration cause headaches, and what are its symptoms?

The migraine headache due to dehydration range from mild to intense – with a gentle throbbing sensation to severe pain. Simple movements can increase pain, and some common symptoms generally characterize migraines.

Among the most common symptoms of dehydration are dry mouth, tiredness, dizziness, confusion, and fainting in severe cases. Syncope, blue lips, and pale skin are considered severe dehydration symptoms and can lead to serious complications. In such circumstances, seeking immediate medical help is undoubtedly necessary.

4.3) Why does dehydration cause headaches, and how can you treat them?

Our bodies need proper nutrition, food, and water to function. Lack of fluids significantly can affect the body and its mechanisms negatively, and headache disorders are such instances.

Treating patients with simple but effective home remedies might be enough for mild and moderate dehydration headaches. Among such treatments, the most simple yet helpful are drinking plenty of fluids, resting, using an ice compress, and pain medications.

Final Thoughts: A Prescription For Dehydration Headaches

Knowing the remedies for dehydration headaches is a pretty helpful thing. You can treat yourself or the patient in these simple but effective ways by maintaining a healthy diet for mild cases.

Food and Water
Image by Vidmir Raic from Pixabay Copyright 2014

However, it would be best never to forget that this will only provide temporary relief. For severe dehydration cases, seeking medical help is a must.

Dehydration headaches are pretty common and easy to cure. As the name suggests, the pain comes due to a lack of fluids, so replenishing nutrients and proper rest can cure the headache most of the time.

Headaches and migraines have become a part of everyday life due to stress and not taking adequate care of one’s health. By knowing the answers to the question – “how does dehydration cause headaches and how to treat them” you will surely be able to lead a better life.

  1. Dalal, Kajal S., Dhanwanti Rajwade, and Ragini Suchak. ““Nil per oral after midnight”: is it necessary for clear fluids?.” Indian Journal of Anaesthesia 54.5 (2010): 445. ↩︎
  2. Lam, Michael, A. B. A. A. H. P. Justin Lam, and Carrie Lam. “Early Signs of Dehydration.” ↩︎
  3. Siri, William E. “Body composition from fluid spaces and density: analysis of methods.” (1956). ↩︎
  4. Schols, J. M. G. A., et al. “Preventing and treating dehydration in the elderly during periods of illness and warm weather.” JNHA-The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging 13 (2009): 150-157. ↩︎
  5. Voskoboinik, Aleksandr, Youlin Koh, and Peter M. Kistler. “Cardiovascular effects of caffeinated beverages.” Trends in cardiovascular medicine 29.6 (2019): 345-350. ↩︎

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