Portrait of an upset businessman at desk in office. Businessman being depressed by working in office. Young stressed business man feeling strain in eyes after working for long hours on computer.

Headaches are a common symptom of COVID-19. Studies show that COVID-19 can cause up to 15% to 40% of cases of headaches. Most patients with COVID-19 report that their headaches improve within two weeks, but they may last a few weeks longer. A Post-COVID headache is a persistent headache that develops after having COVID-19. These headaches can last for weeks or even months after testing negative for the virus.

WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE

Many people with Post-COVID headaches experience them daily, or almost every day. Some also experience sensitivity to light, sound and touch. Post-COVID headaches often occur after doing too much activity. You may find that if you don’t take frequent breaks, you can develop a debilitating headache that takes hours to resolve. You may also notice that on particularly stressful days, you develop a headache more easily than normal.

POSSIBLE CAUSES

Headaches are often a feature of viral infections, but for most people, a headache doesn’t always mean that the virus is still present in the body. The following are patient groups who are more at risk for developing Post-COVID, also known as Long COVID, headaches compared to other groups:

People who have experienced more severe COVID-19 illness, especially those who were hospitalized or required intensive care

People who did not get a COVID-19 vaccine

People who experienced multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) during or after COVID-19 illness

SYMPTOMS

Frequent headaches and/or migraines.

Sensitivity to light, sound, smells and movement.

Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)

MANAGEMENT

The following tips may help you manage Post-COVID headaches:

Z

Monitor for triggers and avoid triggering situations

Z

Take medications such as Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Advil)

Seek help if you experience any of the following:
Z

You have a headache that occurs two or more days a week.

Z

You are using headache medications for more than two to three days per week.

Z

You have a moderate to severe headache that persists despite preventive therapies or simple painkillers.

Z

You experience significant disability associated with your headaches.

Z

You are allergic to headache medications.

Some headaches require immediate medical attention. These include the following:

Z

Headaches with “thunderclap” onset (sudden severe onset of the headache, described as a clap of thunder, hence the name) which usually occurs during bleeding in the brain

Z

Headaches with a reduced level of consciousness

Z

Headaches associated with fever and signs of meningeal inflammation (neck stiffness, photophobia, nausea and vomiting) which is suggestive of brain infection

Z

Headaches associated with signs of glaucoma (sudden, severe eye pain or blurred vision)

Take Charge of Your Recovery

Learn self-management techniques with other long haulers in the Post-COVID Support Community. Start your free trial and connect with members today.