Does the Flu Cause Bad Headaches? Here’s What You Should Know

A close-up image of a woman holding her hand to her forehead in pain.

Headaches affect millions of people each year, with causes and symptoms ranging from mild to severe.

Sometimes, the pain can become so strong that we may question whether we are living with a simple headache or something more serious, like the flu, especially if we are experiencing other flu-like symptoms.

According to the CDC, even with the widespread availability and recommendation to get a flu vaccine, an estimated 9 million to 41 million people annually have become infected with the flu.

While the vaccine is an excellent deterrent against the flu, it does not guarantee complete protection.

So, it is essential to understand where your bad headache is coming from to get the proper treatment and relief you need sooner.

Let’s dive deeper into the question, “does the flu cause bad headaches?” below. 

First, What Is the Flu?

On average, about 8% of the U.S. population gets sick with the flu each year, but what exactly is it?

More formally known as influenza, the flu is a contagious respiratory virus that can infect a person’s nose, throat, and lungs and is caused by influenza A or B.

It is spread from one person to another by tiny droplets in the air from coughing, talking, or sneezing.

Symptom onset averages around 2 days but can range from 1 to 4 days. Symptoms range from mild to severe and can even lead to death in extremely rare and isolated cases.

Does the Flu Cause Bad Headaches?

Yes, bad headaches are a common flu symptom.

In fact, of those who are diagnosed with the flu, a majority of them report headaches as a symptom.

It has also been reported that the flu can trigger migraine headaches in those who already suffer from the common headache disorder.

Headaches during the flu can be caused by

  • fever
  • stress or anxiety
  • dehydration
  • blocked sinuses
  • an increase in cytokines that the immune system releases to respond to infection or illness

Other Flu Symptoms 

The flu is known for causing a wide array of symptoms. Aside from bad or worsening headaches, other common flu symptoms include

  • fever
  • chills
  • fatigue
  • body aches
  • muscle aches
  • loss of appetite
  • dry cough
  • sore throat
  • stuffy nose
  • nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

Flu Treatment

Most people with the flu recover on their own, but there are various ways to help control symptoms at home, including

  • OTC pain relievers for bad headaches
  • proper hydration with clear liquids like water, juice, or soup broth
  • adequate rest
  • fever reducers
  • OTC anti-inflammatories and decongestants
  • throat lozenges or a saltwater gargle to relieve a sore throat
  • OTC saline nasal drops or spray for a runny or stuffy nose
  • a cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier

Antiviral medication may be prescribed in more severe cases to mitigate the severity of your flu symptoms.

Comprehensive Care for the Flu Close to Home

Although most cases of the flu can be treated effectively with rest, hydration, and symptom-specific medication at home, we recommend visiting our urgent care facility if

  • your symptoms last longer than a week.
  • you experience a fever for more than 3 days.
  • OTC medication isn’t helping.
  • you have other underlying health conditions or a compromised immune system
  • the medication you’re taking is causing adverse side effects.

You should seek immediate emergency medical treatment for any life-threatening, flu-like symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pains, or high fever with accompanying symptoms such as confusion, difficulty staying awake, nausea, or a rash.

Visit Thibodaux Regional Urgent Care – Thibodaux to receive rapid treatment for flu, colds, and fevers.

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