A dehydration headache — also called a water-deprivation headache — is a type of cranial pain that occurs when your body doesn’t have enough fluid and electrolytes. It is one of the main symptoms of dehydration and can range in severity from a mild, throbbing to a full-blown migraine headache.
When your body is dehydrated, it doesn’t get the right balance of fluids and electrolytes to function properly. As a result, blood vessels in the brain contract, drawing brain matter away from the skull. The result is pain known as a dehydration headache. Here you’ll learn the main causes and symptoms of dehydration headaches. Plus, you’ll discover the most effective ways to prevent dehydration.
Causes of Dehydration Headaches
When fluid loss occurs at rates higher than fluid intake, you may get a dehydration headache. It’s possible to experience one of these headaches even if you’re only mildly dehydrated.
Many of us are at risk for dehydration and the resulting headaches. Whether our jobs require us to work outside in high temperatures or we enjoy strenuous workouts, dehydration can occur even with the mildest fluid imbalance. There are also risk factors that make many of us more susceptible to dehydration as you’ll see below.
The following are the main causes of dehydration headaches:
- Illnesses that cause diarrhea or vomiting
- Excessive alcohol consumption leading to hangovers
- Excessive sweating caused by heat or strenuous labor
- Heat-related illness such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion
There are also many risk factors that increase your chance of developing dehydration. These include taking certain medications, including diuretics, laxatives, and chemotherapy drugs. If you have a medical condition such as kidney and liver disease, you have a higher risk of dehydration. Bright lights can increase the risk of headache when paired with dehydration. Bright lights are also known migraine triggers and can make headaches more severe.
Some individuals are also predisposed to dehydration including people who live at high altitudes and those who are elderly. Young children are also more susceptible to dehydration and the resulting headaches. If you’re an endurance athlete or work in extreme environments, like military service members, firefighters, and laborers, you are also at higher risk of dehydration.
Symptoms of Dehydration Headaches
Dehydration headaches are different from normal headaches in that they’re accompanied by a range of other symptoms. Typically, when you have a dehydration headache, you’ll also experience extreme thirst and reduced urination.
The signs of dehydration headaches include:
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid heartbeat and irregular heart rate
- Throbbing head pain
- Dry mouth and dry skin
- Extreme thirst
- Dizziness and fainting
- Lack of sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Decreased skin elasticity
- Decreased urine output
Severe cases of dehydration include side effects such as irritability, agitation, confusion, and other mental effects. Severe dehydration can be life-threatening or cause brain damage. In extreme cases, you may need to be hospitalized in order to restore fluid balance using intravenous methods.
Relieve Dehydration With DripDrop ORS
If you’re experiencing dehydration headache symptoms, it is a good idea to address the underlying dehydration. When it comes to treating dehydration, drinking a few cups of water isn’t ideal. In fact, no amount of water alone will rapidly treat the underlying dehydration. While water intake is important, dehydration is accompanied by a loss of electrolytes. Water doesn’t contain many electrolytes, which can speed up fluid absorption and improve fluid retention, making water an inefficient treatment for dehydration.
Sports drinks are also inefficient at treating dehydration because they're packed with added sugar and aren’t formulated with a precise amount of electrolytes. As a result, their osmolarity is too high to allow for a rapid transfer of fluids into the body.
Instead of water or sports drinks, reach for DripDrop ORS, which is an oral rehydration solutions (ORS) like the ones recommended by the WHO and Unicef. DripDrop ORS contains a precise formulation of the electrolytes and glucose that the body needs to prevent and rapidly reverse dehydration.
Other Prevention and Treatment Tips
Besides the need to drink plenty of water mixed with electrolytes and glucose, there are other behavioral changes you can make to help prevent dehydration and headache symptoms. With preparation and advanced planning, you can help prevent dehydration even if you can’t avoid the heat.
Try avoiding strenuous physical activity on hot days. If your job requires you to work hard in hot weather, make sure to take breaks in the shade or an air-conditioned space. You can also place a cooling towel on your neck and wear a hat to keep the sun off your head and neck.
Wearing sunglasses can prevent heat headaches caused by bright lights. Loose-fitting clothing can also help you stay cool. If the temperatures fluctuate during your work hours, wear layers so you can shed clothing as the temperatures increase.
If you have a dehydration headache or a tension headache associated with fluid and electrolyte loss, you can take pain medication like Ibuprofen or Tylenol. Ice packs can also offer temporary relief from throbbing head pain. If your dehydration is associated with hot weather, try placing the ice packs under your armpits or on the femoral artery in your inner thigh. By cooling down these large arteries, you can help decrease your body’s core temperature more quickly.
While these tips may help address some symptoms of dehydration, restoring electrolyte and fluid balance is the only effective way to treat the condition of dehydration.
Know When To Get Help
Dehydration can be a serious condition if left untreated.
If your dehydration headache is accompanied by a high fever — anything above 104 degrees Fahrenheit — head to your doctor’s office. This can be a sign of a serious infection or a heat-related illness such as heat stroke. If you experience confusion, fainting, or aggression while dehydrated, consult a qualified physician as these are also signs of more serious cases of dehydration.
If your child has a dehydration headache and other symptoms, including vomiting and diarrhea, call your pediatrician. Keep a close eye on elderly relatives with dehydration and monitor symptoms. If dehydration symptoms don’t improve within a few hours, bring him or her to a doctor for monitoring. Elderly people who have other dehydration symptoms, including vomiting and confusion, should also visit a doctor’s office as soon as possible.
Prevent Dehydration With DripDrop ORS
DripDrop ORS is the best way to prevent and treat mild dehydration to moderate dehydration. DripDrop ORS contains precise concentrations of sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes your body needs.
It also features a precise ratio of sodium and glucose, ideal for the absorption of electrolytes, thanks to the sodium-glucose cotransport system — a process where sugar makes it easier for the intestines to absorb electrolytes like salt.
Best of all, DripDrop ORS comes in a variety of flavors and you can mix it multiple ways. The honey lemon ginger and spiced apple cider flavors are perfect for adding to a cup of hot water. Other flavors include berry, orange, lemon, and watermelon, which can be frozen as a cooling treat or added to your favorite water bottle.
Want to test it out without a big up-front commitment? Sign up for our convenient two-stick trial. When you decide you want to add DripDrop ORS to your daily dehydration protocol, join our Subscribe & Save program for flexibility and great value.