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If you’ve been infected with COVID in the past few months, you may still be dealing with symptoms. For a certain proportion of people, an infection can turn into long COVID, which can include a wide range of respiratory, neurological, digestive, and musculoskeletal issues that can last for weeks, months, or years. Headaches have become one of the most reported symptoms after a COVID infection.
“COVID-19-associated headache can take several forms, starting from a mild and dull headache to an acute and worst-of-a-lifetime kind of headache,” says Joy Mitra, a neurology expert at Houston Methodist Hospital. “Their durations of persistence also vary from patient to patient.”
COVID infection often worsens existing headaches
If you were already prone to getting headaches, there’s a good chance that a COVID infection will make them worse. “People who have pre-existing migraine or suffer from varying levels of stress in their daily lives have been reported to be the worst subset of COVID survivors with long-lasting episodes of headache, even up to six months from testing negative,” Mitra says. For people with chronic health issues, such as high blood pressure, this can also predispose them to headaches after COVID.
How to manage your headaches
As Mitra advises, if you’re dealing with headaches after being infected, general management strategies include a healthy diet, enough sleep, staying hydrated, and avoiding stress to help reduce either the intensity or frequency of your headaches. For headaches that are especially bad, pain management will likely include medication, for which it’s important to exercise caution, as overuse can lead to a rebound headache. Generally speaking, the advice is to take headache medicine no more than twice a week. If your headaches are more frequent than that, it’s especially important to visit a doctor to find an effective, long-term way to manage the pain.
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When to see a doctor for your headaches
If your headaches are especially painful or frequent, then that’s something you should see a doctor about. You should also see a doctor about your headaches if you have any other conditions that may make them worse, such as high blood pressure, stress disorders, insomnia, or if you’re experiencing symptoms of brain fog. As Mitra advises, it helps to be as specific as you can about the frequency, duration, and location of your headaches, as that will help your doctor make a proper evaluation.
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