COVID Headache - Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

A man sitting on a couch in a white t-shirt, with this eyes closed and appearing to have a COVID headache. One hand is on his forehead while the other hand is holding a glass of water.
  • There are many symptoms of COVID-19, and a headache is one of them.

  • COVID-19 headaches may last days or months, depending on the individual and the COVID-19 variant they have.

  • People with a history of headache disorders have a greater chance of developing a post-COVID headache.

  • Available COVID headache treatment options include medications, bed rest and hydration, as well as anti-inflammatories and preventative treatments.

Headache is one of the symptoms that can accompany a COVID-19 infection.

According to the Journal of Headache and Pain, headache is one of the most common neurological symptoms (symptoms that affect the nervous system) of COVID.

People with COVID-19 may experience a moderate to severe headache, along with other symptoms.

In this article, we’ll go into detail about COVID headaches, including causes, available treatment options, and how to recognize an emergency.

What is a COVID Headache?

Headache is one of the many symptoms that may occur with a COVID-19 infection. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), however, headache is one of the less common symptoms reported.

Headaches have also been linked to long COVID syndrome. People who have recovered from COVID-19 have been experiencing headaches that are more severe than usual, and that frequently resemble tension headaches or migraines.

A COVID headache may occur without any typical headache triggers, such as stress or bright lights.

What Variants of COVID-19 Cause Headaches?

Although a headache can occur with any of the COVID-19 variants, it is among the top five symptoms of Omicron variant infection. Other common symptoms of this variant include:

  • Sneezing and a runny nose
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat

What types of headaches does COVID cause?

Much like other viruses, COVID-19 causes secondary headaches. This type of headache can be the result of another condition, such as:

  • A virus (in this case, COVID-19)
  • A brain tumor or infection
  • High blood pressure
  • Blood vessel problems — such as bleeding or inflammation

In addition, other factors linked to COVID-19 can also cause or worsen headaches, such as:

  • Constantly coughing and blowing your nose
  • Not drinking enough water or eating properly
  • Lack of sleep
  • Stress or anxiety
  • General discomfort
Key Point: Headache After COVID Vaccine

According to the CDC, there are many possible side effects of a COVID-19 vaccination. These are typically mild and disappear on their own within a couple of days.

Headaches are among the most common side effects of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Some other side effects include:

  • Pain, redness, or swelling in the arm where the vaccination was given
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as tiredness, muscle pain, fever, chills, and nausea

Similar side effects can be expected for booster shots, and they can typically be treated with over-the-counter pain relief medication.

Is a Headache a Sign of COVID?

You will likely have additional symptoms if your headache is related to COVID. If you’ve recently socialized with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, you can make an educated guess that the cause of your headache is COVID related.

However, the only way to know for sure if your headache is related to COVID-19 is to get tested.

What Does a COVID Headache Feel Like?

Symptoms of COVID-19 often vary from person to person and are affected by factors like age, overall health, and COVID-19 vaccination status. However, most people agree that COVID headache pain differs from other headaches they've experienced.

Those who have had a COVID headache described it as:

  • A very intense headache pain that affects the entire head
  • A pain that’s similar to a migraine headache
  • A sudden or severe headache
  • Pain that affects both sides of the head
  • A pressing or pulsing sensation in the head
  • Intense headache pain that worsens with movement, such as bending down or jerking the head
  • A tension headache

What are Some Other Symptoms of COVID?

If your headache is linked to COVID-19, there’s a good chance you’ll experience one or more of the following symptoms, too.

Common symptoms of COVID include:

  • Sneezing, nasal congestion, and a sore throat
  • Cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain
  • Fatigue, nausea, and vomiting
  • Loss of taste and smell
  • Body aches
  • Fever
  • Breathing difficulties

Concerned about COVID-19?

Book an online appointment with a doctor now to get your symptoms assessed.

COVID Headache Treatment


Pain relief medication, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and treatments that prevent migraines — such as beta-blockers and antidepressants — are among the treatments used for COVID headaches.

Prescription pain relievers are not typically required to treat COVID headaches.

Some over-the-counter options include:

  • Acetaminophen — this is the preferred method of treatment because of how well it’s tolerated
  • Ibuprofen
  • Aspirin
  • Antinausea medication
  • Steroid medications
  • Prescription migraine medications, such as sumatriptan and rizatriptan

Rest and hydration

The best COVID-19 headache remedy may be the simplest: rest. In fact, rest is essential for a full recovery from COVID-19 — this is especially true for those who experience body aches, fever, and dizziness as symptoms.

It’s always important to drink enough fluids when you’re recovering from COVID-19 — the same rule is true for most other illnesses.

When you are sick, there’s a tendency to neglect drinking and eating. Your body is also losing extra fluids if you have a fever or runny nose — both of which are COVID-19 symptoms, so you need to be mindful of your water intake.

Drinking enough water can help with headache prevention during a COVID-19 infection.

Nasal irrigation

If nasal congestion is one of your COVID-19 symptoms, it may be contributing to your headache. Nasal irrigation can help.

By flushing your sinuses with a saline solution, you can reduce pressure or pain in the face, which can bring relief from headaches and also help you to breathe properly again.

Key Point: Will Ibuprofen Make COVID-19 Worse?

At the beginning of the pandemic, there was some doubt about the safety of NSAIDs — especially ibuprofen.

The drug has since been proven not to have any negative effects on patients with COVID, and both the WHO and the CDC recommend taking it to treat symptoms of COVID.

What About Long COVID Headaches?

Also known as Post-COVID syndrome, long COVID refers to the persistent symptomssome people experience long after they’ve recovered from COVID-19.

Post-COVID headache is one of the symptoms of long COVID, and people who experience it will have ongoing headaches once the infection has cleared.

People with a history of migraine headaches are more at risk of developing severe post-COVID headaches.

How long does a COVID headache last?

COVID headaches can last a few days depending on which variant you have, as well as the treatment methods you’re using for your headache. For example, if you make a point of staying hydrated and rested, your headache may pass more quickly.

However, for those patients struggling with post-COVID syndrome, long COVID headache pain can last for up to a few months.

Getting vaccinated may also offer some protection against long COVID symptoms.

What are Some Other Causes of Headaches?

A headache is seldom the only symptom of COVID-19. If you only have a headache, there’s a good chance it may be caused by one of the following:

  • Headache disorders, such as migraine headaches and tension-type headaches
  • Stress, anxiety, or depression
  • Excessive alcohol consumption or medication use
  • Noise and lighting (overstimulation)
  • Changes in diet or sleeping patterns
  • Neck, back, or eye strain

When Should I See a Doctor?

If you experience worsening headaches that don’t respond to pain medication, you should seek medical attention.

There’s a possibility that your headaches could be caused by a serious underlying medical condition, in which case, prompt treatment is crucial.

COVID-19 may be treated at home, but elderly people with comorbidities — as well as immune-compromised individuals — may require hospitalization.

If you experience any of the following COVID-19 symptoms, the CDC advises you to get immediate medical attention:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Chest pains or discomfort
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty waking up or remaining awake
  • Gray or pale skin, nails, and lips

When is a headache a medical emergency?

Here are serious headache symptoms to watch out for, and which require emergency attention:

  • High fever
  • Headaches that persist and don’t respond to medication
  • Confusion
  • Neck stiffness
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness (especially weakness on one side of the body)
  • Slurred speech
  • Sensitivity to noise and light
Key Point: Should I Have a COVID-19 Test Done?

The only way to know for sure if you have COVID-19, is to get tested. You can do this by using a free at-home test kit or visiting a community-based testing location.

If you suspect you might be infected with COVID-19, self-isolate and wear a mask to protect others.

Where Can I Learn More About COVID-19 and Headache Treatments?

If you suspect COVID-19 is the cause of your severe headache, LifeMD can help. Make an appointment here to speak with a board-certified doctor or nurse practitioner from your smartphone or computer.

Dr. Banita Sehgal

Dr. Sehgal received her medical degree from Western University in Los Angeles and trained as Chief Resident at White Memorial Medical Center, also in Los Angeles. She’s been practicing medicine for 20+ years and has a specific interest in women’s health.

Talk To A Doctor

LifeMD makes it easy to stay on top of your health because talking to a doctor, filling your prescriptions, getting your labs done—and more—are all easy and cost-effective. Come discover a healthcare solution built around you and your life.

Connect with a doctor now!

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency.

Feel better with LifeMD.

Your doctor is online and ready to see you.

Join LifeMD today and experience amazing healthcare, discounted labs and prescription medications... plus around-the-clock access to medical guidance.


COVID Symptoms?

Get seen from across the screen.

Talk to a doctor or NP from home.

Get Started Now