August 14, 2020,

Dehydration and Headaches

Did you know that more than 9 in 10 adults experience headache at some point? In fact, headaches are the No. 1 cause of missed days at work or school in America. People get headaches for many reasons from lack of sleep to stress or illness.

If you’re suffering from headaches this summer, the reason could be as simple as H2O.

Our caring providers at Balance Wellspace take your pain seriously. Our integrative medicine practice offers comprehensive and holistic services for our patients in Roanoke, Virginia.

We also know that sometimes prevention is the best medicine, as in the case of dehydration and headaches. We’ve put together this informative guide to help you better understand the link between dehydration and headaches and how you can stop the pain before it starts.

What is dehydration?

Your body needs lots of water and other fluids to carry out and maintain your normal body functions. When you use up or lose more fluids than you take in, you enter a state known as dehydration.

Dehydration can happen to anyone, but it’s especially common in the summer months when you spend time outdoors in the hot sun and sweat more than usual. It’s especially dangerous for very young children and older adults, who naturally have less water in their bodies than younger people.

While mild dehydration can typically be resolved by simply drinking more fluids, once dehydration becomes severe, immediate medical attention is required to prevent more serious complications such as seizure and hypovolemic shock.

What are the signs of dehydration?

You may think that thirst is a sign of dehydration, but many people don’t experience thirst until they’re already dehydrated. In addition to thirst, signs of dehydration include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Dark urine
  • Lack of need to urinate
  • Muscle cramps
  • Feeling dizzy or fainting
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Rapid breathing and/or heartbeat
  • Confusion
  • Headache

Signs of dehydration can also vary depending on your age. In infants and young children, for example, parents should look for dry diapers, no tears when crying, and lethargy.

For older adults, in addition to the above signs, look for very dry skin, low blood pressure, and an inability to sweat.

How are dehydration and headaches linked?

Scientists are still trying to understand why dehydration causes headaches, but there’s no doubt that for some people, tension-type headaches are triggered by dehydration. And for those who experience migraines, not getting enough fluids can actually trigger a migraine headache.

When your body doesn’t have enough fluids to carry out its normal functions, the brain is affected. Fluid loss can cause the brain to contract and pull away from the skull. Scientists theorize that this could be what causes a dehydration headache.

Even mild dehydration can trigger a dehydration headache. But once your body is hydrated and restored to its normal, healthy state, the headache disappears.

How can I prevent dehydration headaches?

The best way to avoid a dehydration headache is to make sure you take in enough fluids every day — especially during the hot Virginia summers. Here are some tips to keep you hydrated and headache-free:

  • Drink enough water and fluids each day so that you don’t feel thirsty
  • Check your urine — clear or light yellow urine indicates a hydrated body
  • Avoid diuretic liquids, like alcohol and caffeinated beverages
  • Drink more water if you’re overweight — especially at high altitudes or during exercise
  • Eat hydrating foods, like fruits and vegetables, to boost your water intake
  • Seek shade when outside to prevent excess sweating
  • Hydrate in advance of any physical or outdoor activities

For more information about staying hydrated and headache-free, contact Balance Wellspace’s Roanoke office or request an appointment online now.

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