On April 1, 2020, a 65-year old man went to a hospital in Turkey with a severe headache––the very first of his life––that would last nine agonizing days. The patient had no fever or respiratory symptoms. Yet a lung X-ray revealed the telltale ground glass pattern of the COVID-19 virus. His case signaled the addition of “headache” to the growing list of possible symptoms of COVID-19. But the inclusion left many people with migraine uneasy. After all, when headache is a way of life, it’s confusing to wonder: is headache a sign of coronavirus too?
Is Headache A Sign of Coronavirus? When to Call the Doctor
Your Headache Feels Different. If you have migraine, you’re already familiar with your own unique symptoms – and if you aren’t sure, take some time to think them through. Maybe it’s a certain type of migraine aura letting you know an attack is on its way, or a specific stab of pain over your left eye. Maybe your attack is typically a short, intense burst, or perhaps the opposite––building gradually. You’ll know if your head pain is the usual suspect or if something’s off.
Scan for Other Covid Symptoms. Even when headache presents as the primary initial virus symptom, other coronavirus signs are usually present. Be vigilant for any these symptoms:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
Exposure. If you suspect you’ve been exposed to the virus within the last 14 days, and develop an unusual headache and/or any of the above, it’s time to call your general practitioner and see if they recommend a test for COVID-19.
When to Call Your Headache Doctor
Many people are struggling with their headache and migraine maintenance in this stressful era. In one survey, 58% of people said their symptoms worsened. Be sure to alert your doctor of any changes that could signal a need to change your migraine treatment plan, including:
- An increase in your use of headache relief medication
- If a medication that used to give you relief is no longer helpful
- If headache is affecting your work or activities more than before
- Any changes to the frequency or characteristics of your headaches
- Any other neurological changes like trouble walking, numbness, or weakness
If you’re wondering: “Is headache a sign of coronavirus?” check in with yourself to discern if it’s something out of the ordinary. Remember, it’s important to take care of yourself as best you can, especially in unsettling times. And don’t forget to wear your mask!
For more in our COVID-19 and Migraine series, read “Is Your COVID-19 Mask Giving You a Headache?”