Dehydration headache: Signs, Treatment and Prevention

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While you’ve been running all day so busy that you couldn’t take a break and have a glass of water, you will experience a sudden pain radiating across your forehead. This is a dehydration-related headache that is common among individuals nowadays. 

You get a migraine or headache when you don’t drink enough water. It may be mild or moderate, depending on the lack of fluid content. 

This article will help readers understand dehydration headaches, their causes and symptoms, and the preventive measures to cure them.

Will dehydration trigger headaches?

The answer is yes. Every day, our body may lose water through various activities such as excessive sweating, heat-related illnesses, intense physical activities, urine, and saliva. This may lead to losing electrolytes and fluids that regulate different body functions.

Sometimes, we have an imbalance during the day and restoring the energy may seem difficult. Our brain can contract temporarily and cause pain, resulting in a dehydration headache.

According to the Migraine Trust and the American Headache Society, dehydration is recognized as a possible trigger for migraines and headaches. 

This can lead to brain dehydration, nervous problems, and pain-sensitive meninges.

What are the symptoms of a dehydration headache?

So, what does a dehydration headache be like? These secondary headaches can be cured by consuming adequate water, rest, or taking pain relief medications. 

If you have signs of the following symptoms severely, then you are likely to have a dehydration headache:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme thirst
  • Muscle and heat cramps
  • Dry mouth
  • Decreased or dark-coloured urination
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Low blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate

Seek medical attention promptly if you have dehydration headache issues, as it may result in other problems such as diarrhoea, vomiting, excess urination, fever, and more if left unnoticed!

How to treat dehydration headaches?

In simple terms, a dehydration headache is caused by electrolyte and fluid loss. It gets better and makes you relieve pain in a few hours with some at-home treatments such as:

  1. Drink water regularly – Take sips of water frequently and avoid drinking too much water too quickly. Keep your body hydrated!
  2. Try relaxing – Give time to rest your body from physical activities. For example, relax in a calm, shady place if you work in the heat. This way, you can stay active.
  3. Take pain relievers – If your headache does not improve after drinking adequate water, then you can try over-the-counter (OTC) non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers with the consultation of healthcare providers. However, avoid certain caffeine medicines, as they can worsen your headache.
  4. Use cold compressors – Ice packs are a comfortable option when you think your head is pounding. Applying a cold compress can relieve pain instantly. Also, you can use a washcloth with cold water and place it on your forehead.
  5. Carry electrolyte packets – Electrolytes act as minerals to help your body work properly. Since you need to address both electrolyte and fluid loss, it is essential to have electrolytes or sports drinks to help prevent dehydration.

Interesting findings based on the research on water-deprivation headaches:

  • 2 cups of water relieved headaches for 22 subjects within half-an-hour
  • 11 research subjects felt better in 1 to 2 hours after drinking 3 cups of water


The only way to avoid dehydration headaches is to drink enough water. A person can take these steps to maintain the body balance and prevent headaches:

  • Make sure you drink plenty of fluids

Most people should drink at least 8 cups daily, but some may need more. 

  • Take fluid-rich foods 

Cucumbers, other vegetables, and fruits can help you stay hydrated. 

  • Hydrate adequately during exposure 

Try to spread your fluid intake throughout the day instead of drinking it all in one sitting. Increase your water intake when sweating excessively, such as intense exercise or exposure to hot weather. 

  • Treat underlying causes of dehydration

One may lose more fluid and energy due to a fever or an infection. Address the related issues on an immediate basis.

  • Avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol

These beverages can increase urine output, thereby resulting in the risk of dehydration. 

  • Reduce strenuous activity if you are feeling unwell

Both heat and illness can increase your body’s need for fluids. If you’re not well, don’t stress yourself.


According to the ever-popular adage, “you are what you eat” could likely be said as “you are what you drink”. So, incorporate drinking water adequately into your everyday routine to avoid headaches caused by dehydration or tension. 

Together with the right balance of electrolytes and water intake, an individual can make their body function properly without any problem.

1. How long does a dehydration headache last?

Dehydration or water-deprivation headaches will improve within 1 or 2 hours once you drink 16 to 32 ounces of water. If you’re in severe pain, lying down for hours together is better until you feel relieved.

2. What is the fastest way to cure dehydration headaches?

The best method of getting rid of a headache caused by dehydration is by staying hydrated. Drink plenty of water to be active and fresh throughout the day.

3. When should a person consult a doctor?

Taking self-remedies at home can certainly reduce your headache. But, it would be advisable to take the doctor’s advice if you think it’s going beyond the occasional pain, feel extremely tired and weary, lose skin elasticity, and experience other symptoms such as vomiting and fever.


The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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