Dehydration Headache – Causes and Management

Headache due to Imbalance between water intake and loss of water by the body is known as dehydration headache. This is more commonly seen in dry and hot climates. Dehydration headache is mostly felt on both sides of the head and usually goes away within 30 minutes of drinking water.

Symptoms of dehydration headache

  • Dry skin
  • Thirst
  • Dry mouth and cracked lips
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigued and lethargy
  • Irritability
  • Decreases frequency and volume of urination
  • Dark-colored, concentrated urine
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Sunken eyes
  • High heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle pain
  • Unconsciousness

Causes of dehydration headache

Dehydration headache only occurs when the body is dehydrated. As the amount of liquid leaving the body exceeds water intake, the body becomes dehydrated and cause severe brain damage. The amount of water leaving the body changes as per the conditions such as

  • Weather conditions: In hot and dry climates, the body perspires excessively to keep the body temperature down.
  • Vomiting and diarrhea: Often times the body loses electrolytes as well as water from the body such as in diarrhea and vomiting. Excessive electrolyte and water loss decrease blood volume, known as hypovolemia. Hypovolemia can be life-threatening.
  • Use of over the counter medications: Dehydration is a very common adverse effect caused by the excessive use of OTC medications.

Dehydration headache in children

Children and infants are more prone to dehydration and a dehydration headache as they aren’t capable of comprehending their body’s water requirements. Also being more susceptible to viral infections means they can have more frequent episodes of vomiting and diarrhea thus lose more water.

Risk factors

  • Diabetics and people with kidney disease
  • People who live at higher altitudes
  • Elderly people
  • Athletes
  • Alcoholics
  • People who are on medication that require more water for excretion of metabolic products.

Management of dehydration headache


  • Keep drinking water at intervals if the weather conditions are becoming harsh.
  • Drink electrolyte-rich drinks when you are working out.
  • Begin with oral rehydration therapy if the frequency of episodes of vomiting or diarrhea increases.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine as they act as diuretics and may cause an alcohol induced headache or a caffiene headache.


  • Oral rehydration serum, such as Pedialyte, is the best treatment for a dehydration headache.
  • If the headache persists, an OTC can help.
  • An IV solution of ringer lactate might be given in case of excessive fluid loss.

Home remedies

  • Drink more water
  • Eat foods with high water content e.g. watermelon, cucumbers, and other fruits
  • Manage your water intake throughout the day
  • Take a shower

When to consult a doctor?

  • If your dehydration headache doesn’t go away an hour after drinking water.
  • When you start feeling dizzy and feel excessive muscle pain and lethargy.
  • There is blood in your vomitus or stool.
  • If your child is not very active and has been urinating less frequently.
  • If your infant has been vomiting and has had a few episodes of diarrhea.


How much water should I drink in a Day?

Around 10 to 15 cups of water is a good amount.

When would my dehydration headache go away?

Within half an hour of drinking water and quenching your thirst, the headache must go away. If the headache persists even after 1 hour you may take an analgesic for it.

Would coffee help with a dehydration headache?

No, coffee is a diuretic and makes you loose more water. Drinking coffee can increase the pain.

Who is more at risk for developing a dehydration headache?

Infants and children, pregnant women, elderly people, athletes, diabetics, and people living in hot climates.

Last medically reviewed on October 20, 2022.