Headache is one of the most common cause of pain and missed days of work. Most people suffer from a headache at some point in their life but common types of headaches, such as dehydration headache, tension headache, sinus headache, etc., can be treated easily.

One common trigger for headaches is dehydration, and it often sneaks up on people. Let us first understand what is dehydration before we look at the causes, symptoms, and remedies for dehydration headaches.

What is Dehydration?

Dehydration occurs when the body loses more water than it takes in. It is more likely to occur in warmer climates, at higher altitudes, with increased physical activity, and/or when we have fever. The initial symptoms of dehydration include thirst and minor discomfort along with: 

  • Fatigue 

  • Weakness 

  • Constipation 

  • Dry mouth 

  • Parched lips 

  • Dizziness 

  • Dry or flushed skin 

  • Muscle cramps

Dehydration Headache: Causes and Symptoms

When we don’t drink enough water, we get a headache which is commonly known as dehydration headache. We lose water daily in the form of sweat and urine and this can be replenished by drinking water or eating foods high in high in water content. Our body requires a balance of fluids and electrolytes to function. If this balance is altered, our body becomes dehydrated. 

When we become dehydrated, our brain tissue loses water, causing the brain to shrink and pull away from the skull. The pain receptors surrounding the brain are thus triggered, leading to a headache.

People experience different symptoms of dehydration headaches. The common ones are:

  • Pain at the front, back, or on just one side of the head

  • Throbbing or severe pain felt throughout the head

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Diarrhea

Quick Remedies to Treat Dehydration Headache 

To treat a dehydration headache, addressing both the pain and the dehydration is the best approach to get relief.

1. Replace Lost Electrolytes 

Along with water, electrolytes (minerals that carry an electrical charge and are vital for health and survival) are also lost through sweat that plays an essential role in water retention. Failure to replace lost electrolytes will lead to dehydration. Add some electrolyte powder to your water for fast electrolyte replenishment.

2. Drink Water

Reports suggest that most dehydration headaches are relieved within three hours of drinking a glass or two of water. Drinking too fast can sometimes cause vomiting, so take slow sips or suck on a few ice cubes.

3. Cold Compress

A gel ice pack is generally the most comfortable option. You can usually buy these ice packs with a cover that straps around your forehead from the local pharmacy. 

4. Take Ample Rest

In addition to the above, be sure to stay in a cool environment and rest, so that your body is able to rehydrate without sweating. If the dehydration is severe, or if your headache doesn't subside, visit a doctor immediately. Your doctor may prescribe intravenous (IV) rehydration to treat moderate to severe cases of dehydration. 

Avoiding Dehydration Headache

The key to avoiding a dehydration headache is by staying hydrated.

You can also maintain an adequate fluid intake by eating foods that are naturally high in water content, such as watermelon, oranges, cucumber, tomatoes, etc.

Tips for Staying Hydrated

  • Set a jug or pitcher of water aside each day. Keep it near you at home/work. Make sure half is consumed by lunchtime.

  • Drink a full glass of water as soon as you get up in the morning and before you have your customary drink (i.e., tea, coffee, etc.).

  • Make the water tastier by adding strawberries, cucumber slices, ginger, or mint leaves to it.

  • Try one of several smartphone apps that will remind you to drink and track your daily water intake.

A dehydration headache is one of the ways your body communicates with you that something is wrong. It is a symptom of a much bigger problem that your body needs you to take action in order to resolve. 


Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.