What does new COVID headache feel like?

  • A headache associated with COVID-19 can feel like a tension headache or a migraine.
  • Some patients can also experience persistent daily headaches after recovering from an acute COVID-19 infection.
  • Lifestyle changes and certain medications may treat a COVID headache to an extent.

Headaches are one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19.1 But are they different from other types of headaches?

COVID headaches could manifest differently among individuals, according to Igor Koralnik, MD, chief of neuroinfectious diseases and global neurology at Northwestern Medicine. Headaches can be similar to a constant tension headache or a throbbing pain like a migraine attack.

About 70% of the patients at the Neuro COVID-19 Clinic at Northwestern Memorial Hospital experience headaches associated with the coronavirus, Koralnik added.

Why Would COVID Cause Headaches

Survivors of the 1890 flu pandemic had experienced post-infection symptoms months to years after the pandemic ended. One of the documented complications was a persistent, daily headache. Researchers suggested that the many similarities between the 1890 pandemic and the current pandemic mean that headache of a similar nature is a possible consequence of COVID-19.2

“It would be fair to speculate that new-onset headache would be related to the viral illness itself, since COVID tends to present with flu-like symptoms,” McConnell said.

Many people develop a headache during the course of the infection that eventually goes away when they recover. In some cases, the headache occurs long after the initial infection.

“The headaches with COVID can last as long as the acute illness, or as long as weeks to months, especially in those who develop them as part of their long COVID manifestation,” McConnell said. 

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