When you have a headache, you want it to go away quickly. While over-the-counter pain medication can effectively stop the pain, it is best to treat the underlying problem so that it doesn’t return.
A dehydration headache is one of the easiest to treat and avoid. Here are the signs that your headache might be from dehydration and ways to prevent and treat it.
Dehydration Headache Symptoms
The body needs a proper amount of fluids and electrolytes to function. Everybody loses water throughout the day through activities such as sweating and urinating. When the body does not receive enough fluids, a dehydration headache can range from mild to a migraine.
Dehydration headaches are more likely to occur on hot and humid days when you are susceptible to losing more water through sweat. It is also a common side effect of many over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications.
In addition to a headache, common symptoms that accompany a dehydration headache include:
- Reduced urination
- Dark yellow urine
- Dry or sticky mouth
- Muscle cramps
- Cool and dry skin
If you are experiencing a dehydration-related headache, drink a glass or two of water immediately. You don’t need to overhydrate; most headaches subside within three hours after drinking.
When dehydrated, some may experience vomiting. Take slow sips, and don’t rush. Sucking on ice cubes can also help hydrate your body without nausea.
In addition to water, the body also expels crucial minerals through sweat and urination, such as sodium and potassium. Electrolyte drinks are another way to replenish the body's fluids and minerals to function. Low-sugar electrolyte drinks can balance these minerals in your body to help you feel better.
If your headache doesn’t improve after drinking water or you don’t want to wait for the headache to dissipate, you can also take an OTC pain reliever. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin can all help relieve a headache. Avoid migraine medication because the caffeine in it can worsen dehydration.
A cold compress can also relieve head pain. Many drug stores carry gel ice packs that comfortably strap around your forehead. Crushed ice cubes make a great homemade ice pack. You can also use a washcloth soaked in water and placed in the freezer. Place it on your head and find a dark, quiet place to lie down.
If you know that dehydration is a headache trigger for you, take steps to prevent it. Carry a water bottle with you or store it in your car so you can drink wherever you go. Prioritize drinking water during workouts and avoid sugary drinks that may not hydrate you enough. Also, limit caffeine and alcohol since they can also lead to dehydration.
While a mild dehydration headache can easily be treated at home, seek medical treatment if you have severe dehydration. Symptoms of severe dehydration include low blood pressure, rapid breathing, sunken eyes, rapid heart rate, and a lack of sweat.
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