How are headaches and dehydration related?

There are many different factors that can cause a headache. Here we are going to discuss dehydration headaches and how they are caused.

Headaches can affect each of us in different ways and are classified into various types. Dehydration is believed to be a contributing factor to some headaches like tension-type headaches and migraine headaches.

What happens to our bodies when they are dehydrated?

Water makes up over two-thirds of a healthy human body. Fluid intake is importance as water plays a crucial role in helping our body to function properly. This includes carrying nutrients and waste products between major organs, regulating body temperature, helping blood flow in blood vessels, lubricating joints, aiding digestion and maintaining      skin elasticity.

Evidence suggests that dehydration can cause the brain to shrink away from the skull and reduce blood volume, which not only creates head pain but also affects your ability to think.

Every cell in the human body depends on water so it is important to make sure you are hydrated.


What are the symptoms of dehydration?

The first symptoms of mild dehydration are usually thirst and dry mouth. You may feel like you have a sticky mouth, thick saliva, and/or a dry, scratchy tongue. However, other symptoms of dehydration may develop too, such as tension-type or migraine headache, fatigue, weakness, parched lips.

If you are concerned about your dehydration symptoms, it’s important to get medical advice from a healthcare professional as untreated dehydration can lead to or result in serious complications. While thirst is a symptom of dehydration, excessive thirst can be a symptom of an underlying disorder.

You can have your hydration status medically reviewed by a healthcare professional. This involves a series of tests, such as measuring your urine output, to determine if your fluid intake is balanced with the amount of water your body takes out.

Drinks that can cause dehydration

Drinking water is regarded as the best type of fluid intake to improve your hydration status and prevent symptoms of dehydration. However, bottled mineral water which contains salt should be avoided as it can lead to fluid retention and increase blood pressure in susceptible people.

Having large amounts of coffee and other caffeinated drinks can be a trigger for dehydration headaches. If you are a regular coffee or tea drinker, consider slowly cutting down your caffeine consumption as caffeine withdrawal can also cause headaches.

Alcohol consumption can be another cause of dehydration headache. If you decide to drink alcohol, do so in moderation and drink enough water to rehydrate your body.


Preventing dehydration; how much water do we need?

Australian dietary guidelines recommend that we drink enough water, limit our alcohol consumption and avoid sugary drinks such as fruit drinks, flavoured mineral water and energy or sports drinks to prevent dehydration. The recommended amount of fluid you may need is determined by your gender, age, how active you are, whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, and the conditions you live in.

You may need to avoid certain activities or conditions that increase your heart rate and result in more fluid loss. For example, hot weather, physical activity and being in high altitude can increase water being lost through sweat, therefore you may need to increase your fluid intake to more than the recommended amount in these circumstances.

Increasing your fluid intake by drinking water is one of the best home remedies for dehydration headache. Try always keeping water handy and add ice cubes to your drinks. Having more fruit and vegetables throughout the day can also increase your fluid intake, but this is not an alternative to drinking water.


Headache relief

You can help prevent dehydration headaches triggered or caused by insufficient fluid intake by keeping yourself rehydrated. You can try pain relief medication to help relieve a dehydration headache once it strikes. A product such as Nurofen can help relieve headache pain for up to 8 hours.*

Remember, it’s better to take steps to prevent a dehydration headache from occurring rather than suffering through one. So, keep well hydrated to avoid future dehydration headaches.