Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

What is Dehydration Headache?

Fri 29 Mar 2024 | 07:15 PM
Dr. Magdy Badran
Dr. Magdy Badran
Dr. Magdy Badran

Throughout Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours. Staying hydrated can be a little harder to manage, especially when Ramadan falls during the warmer summer months. A dehydration headache happens when your body is dehydrated. Lack of water commonly causes headaches and tiredness. Being dehydrated can also trigger other types of headaches, including migraines.

What is a Dehydration Headache?

A dehydration headache is a headache caused by a lack of fluids in the body. It is classified as a ‘secondary’ headache, which is a headache caused by external factors. This makes it different from ‘primary’ headaches (such as migraines, cluster, or tension-type headaches), which aren’t caused by another condition.

When you’re dehydrated, your brain and other tissues in your body shrink (contract). As your brain shrinks, it pulls away from the skull, puts pressure on nerves and causes pain.

Risk Factors

Some common risk factors for dehydration are not drinking enough water, or eating enough food, excess sweating due to increased exercise or heat, vomiting, diarrhea. Some people may be at greater risk of dehydration and dehydration headaches, including children, the elderly, and people with a chronic illness.

The adult human body contains around 60% water. All the cells in the body, including our brain cells, depend on this water to carry out essential functions. Therefore, if water levels are too low, our brain cells cannot function properly.

The elderly are at higher risk for dehydration. The levels of water stored in the body decline with age due to changes in body composition, namely the loss of muscle and gain of fat. Muscle tissue provides a large reservoir of water since it is made up of nearly 80% water, while fat tissue has a much lower water content around 10%.

The elderly are also less likely to notice they are dehydrated. The brain becomes less sensitive to the thirst sensor with age, so thirst is a less reliable indicator of hydration status in this population. People with certain health conditions (such as diabetes) also have an increased risk.


Headaches are a common symptom of dehydration, even if it is only mild to moderate. Headaches are the most common type of pain. Pain from a dehydration headache can range from mild to severe. You may feel pain all over your head or in just one spot, such as the back, front or side. The pain is usually like a dull ache, but it can also be sharp. You may have a throbbing (pounding) headache, or the pain might be constant. The pain might get worse when you bend over, shake your head, or move around.

Dehydration headaches can range from mildly annoying to severely painful. Headache pain often appears along with other symptoms of dehydration, including dizziness (particularly after standing up), extreme thirst, dry mouth, dark, yellow-colored urine or decreased urination, fatigue or lethargy, irritability, and loss of elasticity in the skin. Pain usually goes away after drinking water, resting and taking pain relief medication.

Dehydration headaches may cause pain on all sides of your head, while a migraine may only cause intense pain on one side of the head and will often be accompanied by symptoms of nausea, vomiting, or light and sound sensitivity.

Dehydration headaches will also feel different from a sinus headache, as dehydration headaches do not cause pressure or pain in the face, while sinus pressure headaches do.


Drink roughly eight glasses of water per day. However, this may change depending on your body size, environment, or the amount that you exercise daily.

Milk is more hydrating than water. Milk was found to be even more hydrating than plain water because it contains the sugar lactose, some protein, and some fat, all of which help to slow the emptying of fluid from the stomach and keep hydration happening over a longer period. Milk also has sodium, which acts like a sponge and holds onto water in the body and results in less urine produced.

Eat high water-content food during the suhoor meal such as cucumber, lettuce, bell pepper, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, oranges, grapefruit, pineapple, apples, plain yogurt, celery, zucchini, strawberries, cantaloupe, and watermelon.

Soups and broths both contain about 92% water, as they are liquid based. Soups and broths can help you hydrate. Drink fresh fruit juices rather than sweetened juices. Avoid sports drinks, as they are high in sugar or salt and will not adequately restore your electrolyte balance. Some of these drinks may actually increase your dehydration.

Cottage cheese is another healthy and nutritious dairy product with hydrating properties. About 80% of the weight of cottage cheese comes from water.

Coconut water is a super healthy beverage that will keep you hydrated. Not only does it have a very high-water content, it’s also rich in electrolytes, including potassium, sodium, and chloride.

Do not add too much salt to salads and other dishes. Also avoid eating salty foods as well like salted fish and pickles because they increase the body’s need for water. Avoid spices and caffeinated drinks during the iftar and suhoor meals. Whole grains and proteins are vital.

Practicing any physical activity for 20 to 30 minutes each day is recommended. Sleep six to eight hours per day.

Applying a cold compress to your head can relieve pain. You can also wet a washcloth with cold water and place it on your forehead. Take a break from physical activity. If you’re in the heat or sun, try relaxing in a cool, shady place. Stay indoors as much as possible and avoid exposure to sunlight.