This Is How to Tell If Your Headache Is COVID, Study Says

Researchers have identified five attributes that may signal that pain in your head is the coronavirus.

The average person develops two to four colds per year—and if you're unvaccinated, unlucky, or both, you may also get the flu. Under normal circumstances, the symptoms associated with these illnesses are unpleasant, but not usually a source of any greater anxiety. Of course, 2020 is anything but normal, and even something as common as a headache can be cause for alarm. After all, researchers have found that headaches are the most common neurological symptom of COVID.

But how can you distinguish between a regular, run-of-the-mill headache and something COVID-related? While doctors are still looking into a COVID headache's distinguishing features, one recent study published in The Journal of Headache and Pain shed some light on the subject.

The researchers out of Istanbul University in Turkey surveyed 3,196 patients without COVID and 262 patients with a confirmed COVID diagnosis about their symptoms. They found that there are five key signs that your headache is the result of COVID, as opposed to another illness, stress, or migraine. Read on for the full list, and for more ways to determine if your symptoms are COVID-related, check out This Is How to Tell If Your Cough Is COVID, Doctors Say.

Read the original article on Best Life.

Your head is throbbing.

Shot of a senior man suffering with a headache at home and looking stressed out

Many people will describe a headache as "throbbing" when they really just mean it hurts. But true "throbbing headaches" actually include a pulsing, beating sensation, which researchers have noticed are disproportionately associated with COVID-19.

According to the researchers, COVID headaches "showed different characteristics like pulsating, pressing, and even stabbing quality." Milder headaches were less frequently associated with the virus. And for more on spotting signs of coronavirus, check out If You Have These 2 Subtle Symptoms, There's a Good Chance You Have COVID.

Your headache has lasted over 72 hours.

Woman waking up with headache

The same study found that headaches that persist for at least 72 hours are more likely to be the result of COVID than those that resolve sooner: Over 10 percent of COVID-positive respondents reported this minimum duration, compared with four percent of patients whose headaches were not related to COVID.

Those with coronavirus may also experience shorter tension headaches throughout their sickness, but these are typically associated with the physical strain of severe coughing. And for another symptom to be aware of, check out This Strange Pain Could Be the First Sign You Have COVID, Study Says.

You're also experiencing sensory or gastrointestinal symptoms.

View of young woman suffering from stomachache on sofa at home

Though headaches sometimes present as one of the earliest symptoms of coronavirus, there are two other types of symptoms that often follow suit. "COVID-19 related headaches were more closely associated with anosmia/ageusia [the medical terms for the loss of one's sense of smell and taste] and gastrointestinal complaints," the study explains.

If you notice that your headache is paired with even mild iterations of these symptoms, it's definitely time to get a COVID test. And to decode your gastrointestinal issues, check out This Is How to Tell If Your Upset Stomach Is COVID, Doctors Say.

Your headache is resistant to painkillers.

ibuprofen painkiller painkillers

Sometimes even a COVID headache will respond to painkillers like aspirin and acetaminophen. However, the research team noted a link between headaches that resist the effects of analgesic medication and a COVID diagnosis. If your headache persists despite over the counter treatment, it could be an early sign of coronavirus. And for more regular COVID news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

You're biologically male.

man stressed out and depressed on public transportation.

Yes, this is a broad category, but the study found that COVID-positive men were twice as likely to report headaches than COVID-positive women. "In the COVID-19 positive group, the rate of males [reporting headaches] was 48.1 percent (126 out of 262 patients), whereas in the COVID-19 negative group this rate was 31 percent (991 out of 3196 participants), showing a significant gender difference," the researchers wrote. And when you need to know if your congestion means something more, This Is How to Know If Your Stuffy Nose Could Be COVID.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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