According to data collected from millions of users of the ZOE COVID Symptom Study app, a headache can be a symptom of COVID-19. Here’s how to spot it and how it feels.
What are headaches like in COVID-19?
Despite the fact that headaches are a less well-known symptom of COVID-19, they are one of the first signs of the disease and are more common than the ‘traditional’ symptoms of cough, fever, and loss of smell (anosmia).
It’s very important to remember that headaches are very common, especially because many of us spend so much of our time staring at screens. So, while many people with COVID-19 have headaches, the majority of people who have a headache do not have COVID-19.
Researchers are trying to figure out how to distinguish between COVID and non-COVID headaches. COVID-19 headaches are associated with the following symptoms:
- Pain that ranges from mild to severe
- Feel a ‘pulsing’, ‘pressing,’ or’stabbing’ sensation.
- Rather than occurring in just one area, they occur on both sides of the head (bilaterally).
- More than three days’ worth of use
- Be adamant about not taking pain relievers on a regular basis.
We don’t know why COVID-19 gives people headaches. It’s possible that the virus is harming the brain directly. It might also be associated to being sick, such as dehydration or hunger as a result of not eating and drinking regularly.
When does a headache happen in COVID-19?
The headache generally appears at the beginning of the sickness and lasts for three to five days on average. However, some people can have COVID-related headaches for a long time, and these are common in people with Post COVID syndrome (Long-COVID). These headaches come and go, according to our data, but they thankfully get better with time.
How common is a headache in COVID-19?
A headache is a relatively prevalent symptom of COVID-19 in people of all ages. Around seven out of ten people infected with COVID-19 will have a headache. It affects about six out of ten children, making it significantly less frequent in children.
A headache was reported as the sole symptom by about 15% of patients who were infected with COVID-19.
What are other symptoms of COVID-19 common alongside a headache?
A headache is quite likely to occur in conjunction with exhaustion and a loss of smell (anosmia). Symptoms such as a sore throat, fever, odd muscular aches, a persistent cough, and disorientation are common.
If you experience many COVID-19 symptoms in the first week of being sick, you should visit your doctor, depending on your age and gender.
What should I do if I have a headache and think it might be COVID-19?
It’s possible that COVID-19 is causing your headache, especially if you’ve lost your sense of smell and are feeling exhausted. You should:
- Follow the NHS instructions and self-isolate at home to help safeguard the individuals around you and the wider community.
- The ZOE COVID Symptom Study app may be downloaded and used to schedule a COVID test as soon as feasible.
- If you haven’t already, register your health on a regular basis in the app to help us learn more about how COVID-19 affects people and to participate to life-saving scientific research.
- Check out our advice on how to take care of yourself if you’re sick with COVID-19, including how to keep track of your health at home and how to remain hydrated.
If your headache is particularly bad, you might try taking paracetamol or ibuprofen.
If you have breathing problems, if you suddenly get disturbed, or if your lips or face get blue, you should need urgent medical care.
Stay careful and keep logging.