In modern society, headaches have become a prevalent condition affecting individuals of all ages. About 15% of Australians take pain-relieving medicines for headaches at any given time. Dehydration headaches are a familiar yet often overlooked health issue that can seriously impact day-to-day life. These headaches occur when the body experiences more fluid depletion than it takes in, resulting in a disruption that affects multiple bodily functions. Understanding the symptoms, treatments and preventive strategies for dehydration headaches is important for managing and evading unease.

Dehydration and Headaches: What’s The Link?

The connection between dehydration and headaches is essentially due to the effect of dehydration on the body’s fluid balance and brain function. When the body experiences a deficit in fluid intake compared to fluid loss, either through insufficient fluid consumption, excessive sweating, vomiting or diarrhoea, it can lead to dehydration. This imbalance influences several psychological processes, including blood volume and circulation, electrolyte balance and brain function, eventually contributing to the development of headaches. 

Dehydration can lead to a decrease in blood flow to the brain. This reduced blood circulation leads to oxygen and nutrient deprivation in the brain, prompting psychological responses that result in headache symptoms. Additionally, dehydration can affect the brain’s capacity to balance its internal equilibrium, leading to increased sensitivity to pain. It’s important to note that individual susceptibility to dehydration headaches can vary, and not everyone may experience headaches as a primary symptom of dehydration.

Overall, the link between dehydration and headaches underlines the significance of maintaining sufficient hydration levels to support overall health. Proper hydration can alleviate the risk of hydration-related headaches and encourage optimal brain function.

What Does a Dehydration Headache Feel Like?

A dehydration headache is usually experienced as a persistent throbbing or dull pain, often occurring at the front, back, sides or all over the head. Moving the head may aggravate the pain and make it worse. Pain might also increase while bending down, climbing the stairs or even walking depending on the severity of the headache and dehydration. The dehydration headache may be accompanied by dry mouth, fatigue, dizziness, or thirst.

How Can I Tell If I'm Dehydrated?

Multiple signs can indicate dehydration. One of the most observable signs is thirst; feeling thirsty is the body’s way of letting you know that it needs more fluid. Other common signs may include low urine volume, dark yellow urine and unusual urination. Additionally, dryness or stickiness in the lips, mouth, or throat, reduced skin turgor (the skin’s ability to change shape and return to normal), and exhaustion may also indicate dehydration. Dizziness, lightheadedness, confusion and rapid heart rate are signs of significant dehydration requiring immediate medical attention.

Causes Of Headaches Caused By Dehydration

Dehydration headaches can be caused by various factors. Here is a list of some of the most common causes of dehydration headaches:

  • Inadequate fluid intake
  • Excessive sweating due to heavy exercise or heat.
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fever
  • Excessive urination
  • Immoderate consumption of alcohol and caffeine
  • High altitude

Symptoms

The symptoms of dehydration headaches include the following:

  • Throbbing or dull ache
  • Fatigue
  • Dry mouth, lips and throat
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive thirst
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dark colour urine
  • Decreased urine output
  • Racing pulse
  • Difficulty concentrating

Treatment Of Headaches Caused By Dehydration:

No matter how uncomfortable headaches caused by dehydration may feel, they can be easily treated by rehydrating the body. Here are some steps that you can take to treat headaches caused by dehydration:

  • Drink water: Hydrate yourself by drinking ample water throughout the day. This is the most effective way to combat dehydration and its associated headaches. Aim for approximately 8 glasses of water daily, and more if you’ve been sweating or the weather is hot (individual water needs can vary based on age, sex, weight activity level, and existing health conditions). However, it is important to also not over-hydrate by drinking an excessive amount of fluid, as this can also pose serious health risks such as hyponatremia (low blood sodium levels).
  • Replenish Electrolytes: Dehydration can lead to an imbalance in electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium. Consuming electrolyte-rich beverages, like sports drinks or coconut water, can help restore these levels and aid in hydration. During prolonged exercise or in cases of severe dehydration, it is recommended to take an electrolyte solution rather than drinking plain water.
  • Avoid Dehydrating Beverages: Limit or avoid drinks that can further dehydrate you, such as alcohol and caffeine. These can worsen dehydration and intensify your headache.
  • Cold Compress: Placing a cold compress on your forehead or the back of your neck can help alleviate headache pain by constricting blood vessels and numbing the area. This can provide quick relief while you address the underlying cause.
  • Rest:  Sometimes, headaches may be triggered by stress, fatigue, or lack of sleep. It’s essential to rest in a quiet, dark room to reduce sensory stimuli and promote relaxation. Consider taking a short nap or lying down with your eyes closed.
  • Over-the-counter Pain Relief: Consider using over-the-counter pain medicines, as directed, if you have a headache. But it’s crucial to avoid becoming excessively reliant on these drugs because repeated use might result in rebound headaches.

 

Book a Telehealth appointment with a registered doctor within 15 minutes to discuss your condition from the comfort of your home. 

Prevention

Keeping yourself well-hydrated throughout the day is key to preventing headaches brought on by dehydration. The following recommendations can assist you in avoiding headaches caused by dehydration:

  • Keep Yourself Hydrated: Even if you don’t feel thirsty, make sure to drink a lot of water throughout the day. Water is the most effective choice, but you can also eat meals like fruits and vegetables that are high in water content.
  • Keep a Close Watch On Fluid Loss: Be aware of conditions like heat, exercise, illness, or alcohol consumption that might cause increased fluid depletion. During these times, drink more fluids.
  • Avoid Dehydrating Drinks: Restrict your consumption of drinks that might cause dehydration, such as sugary sodas and caffeinated drinks like tea, coffee, and energy drinks.
  •  Urine Colour: The colour of your urine can tell you a lot about your hydration levels. The goal is to have pale yellow urine, which signals proper hydration, as opposed to dark yellow urine which signals dehydration..
  • Hydration Before and After Exercise: To replenish fluids lost through perspiration, drink water before, during, and after exercise. Regaining lost minerals can also be aided by electrolyte drinks.
  • Be Wary of Medications: Certain drugs, such as diuretics, can cause dehydration by increasing fluid loss. Consult your doctor about altering your fluid intake if you use any of these medications.
  • Pay Attention to Your Body: Keep an eye out for early indicators of dehydration, such as lethargy, dark urine, dry mouth, and thirst. Drink plenty of fluids to promptly treat these symptoms.

When To Consult a Doctor?

Seeking a doctor’s opinion for dehydration headaches is advisable if the symptoms continue despite efforts to rehydrate and reduce discomfort. Moreover, if dehydration headaches are accompanied by acute symptoms such as diarrhoea or vomiting, visiting a healthcare provider is crucial. Individuals with chronic medical ailments as well as those taking medications that might affect hydration levels should consult their doctor if they experience persistent headaches. Furthermore, if dehydration headaches are frequently impacting daily life, it is imperative to consult the doctor to explore possible treatment options. Remember, initiating assistance sets the foundation for a more fulfilling and healthy life.

Book a Telehealth appointment with an Australian-registered doctor within 15 minutes to discuss your condition from the comfort of your home. 

Can a Telehealth Doctor Help With Dehydration Headache?

With the help of telehealth services, patients can consult with medical professionals remotely via phone calls, or video calls. Hence, if you are suffering from a headache caused by dehydration, telehealth services can be of great help. These health professionals can evaluate symptoms, recommend adjustments to fluid intake, recommend over-the-counter pain relievers if necessary, and offer guidance on preventive measures. Patients can effectively manage their headaches from home through convenient access to medical care. Talk to an online GP within 15 minutes from the comfort of your home.

Dehydration headaches are a prevalent yet preventable condition that can considerably impact the quality of life. By identifying the signs, implementing healthcare protocols, and adopting preventive measures, individuals can successfully manage dehydration headaches and reduce their elevated occurrence and intensity. Emphasising on hydration, maintaining a balanced diet and being observant of lifestyle factors can help prevent dehydration headaches and promote overall wellness.

See a GP within 15 minutes anytime, day or night

See a doctor now Request an online script

Related Articles

Can Stress Cause Vertigo?

Headache – Types, Causes, Symptoms, And Prevention​

Headache – Types, causes, symptoms, and prevention Written by Sai Pragna Chagarla, Staff Writer –...

Disclaimer

This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. For emergencies please immediately contact 000.