Fever Headache: 12 Possible Causes

Headache itself is not something to worry about but if you have fever along with it you need proper diagnosis as it indicates a serious underlying infection. Fever Headache can possibly be localized to your central nervous system but some systemic infections also have fever as an associated symptom. However, it might not always indicate an infection but there are some non-infectious causes of Fever Headache too.
Given below are some infectious and non-infectious causes of Fever Headache:

  1. Meningitis
  2. Brain Abscesses
  3. Encephalitis
  4. Sinus Infection
  5. Giant Cell Arteritis
  6. Systemic Infections
  7. Heatstroke
  8. Rheumatoid Arthritis
  9. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
  10. Medications
  11. Vaccinations
  12. Cancer

1- Meningitis

Meninges are protective layers that cover the brain and spinal cord, sometimes a bacterial or viral infection can spread through the Cerebrospinal Fluid and cause inflammation of these protective membranes. This presents itself as a severe Headache and neck stiffness associated with high fever and is known as Meningitis.


Some other symptoms that a company fever headache in meningitis are:

  • Neck stiffness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of concentration and coordination
  • Seizures
  • Loss of appetite.


There can be bacterial or viral infections that cause meningitis. Pneumococcus, Meningococcus, H.Influenza are common bacterial strains that cause meningitis. Viral meningitis is usually self-limiting and is caused by Herpes simplex, mumps, HIV, and some others.


For the prevention of bacterial meningitis, some vaccinations are also given to children. But an acute attack of bacterial meningitis is treated immediately with IV antibiotics and corticosteroids (for inflammation). Viral causes are usually treated symptomatically.

2- Brain Abscesses

Infected fluid can sometimes collect in the brain forming an abscess, this happens really but is a potentially life-threatening condition that needs immediate medical care.


  • Severe headache
  • High-grade fever
  • Neck stiffness
  • Confusion
  • Altered mentation
  • Neurological dysfunction


The brain abscess increases the intracranial pressure as the fluid keeps collecting in the brain and it takes up more and more space exerting pressure on the brain and thus causing a headache.


  • Antibiotics are usually given through oral and IV routes.
  • In severe cases and life-threatening conditions, an abscess might be surgically drained and infection is cleared.

3- Encephalitis

It is inflammation of the brain which has mostly a viral cause to it but can also be caused by bacterial or fungal infections.


  • Fever
  • Severe headache
  • Neck stiffness
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Numbness and paralysis


The swelling in the brain is a major cause of headache and it ranges in intensity from moderate to severe. Fever headache associated with Encephalitis usually lasts a considerable time even after the underlying infection is resolved as inflammation of the brain takes some time to subside.


  • Since it is mostly caused by viral infections and is self-limiting thus, symptomatic treatment is most beneficial.
  • Anti-inflammatories are given to relieve fever and pain from Headache.

4- Sinus Infection

Inflammation of new causes of sinuses can lead to sinus infections. This is most commonly presented in the form of flu and Sinus Headache.



The inflammation of sinus mucosa does not allow drainage of fluid from sinuses and thus the fluid keeps accumulating. This exerts pressure that can lead to Headache in the Forehead. The build-up of fluid and inflammatory material allows several germs to grow and a superimposed bacterial infection can take place that causes mild to high fever.


  • Anti-inflammatories to relieve inflammation and headache
  • Decongestants for flu-like symptoms
  • Antihistamines for allergic causes.

5- Giant Cell Arteritis

This is an inflammatory condition of blood vessels, located on the temples. A complication of giant cell arteritis is a Headache on one side of Head, scalp tenderness, and pain in forehead and occipital region, and mild to moderate fever. Fever is only rarely presented.


This can be managed by giving a corticosteroid like prednisolone. But, underlying condition that is giant cell arteritis should be managed for permanent relief.

6- Systemic Infections

There are several infections that spread in the whole body and can cause Fever Headache.


Some of these are HIV AIDS, infectious mononucleosis, and Influenza. There are some infections that affect your lungs, kidneys, urinary tract or even just ear but can spread throughout the body or even just have symptoms that involve other organs.


The symptoms mainly depend upon the cause but some common symptoms are:
Shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, high-grade fever, headache, chills, and rigors.


The underlying cause is treated.

7- Heatstroke

Excessive exposure to the sun can cause your body to overheat, this is known as heat stroke or sunstroke. This is mainly presented as a high-grade fever and throbbing dehydration headache and is an emergency condition that can cause serious life-threatening complications if not treated immediately.


  • Severe throbbing Headache and High-grade fever (usually up to 104°F).
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sunburns
  • Hot, dry, and Flushed skin
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shallow, rapid breathing
  • Confusion and delirium
  • Seizures
  • Fainting


Direct heat to the Head mainly causes headache. But long term exposure to the sun can cause dehydration which causes brain damage and headache.


  • IV fluids are given to combat dehydration.
  • Cold sponging and cold packing is also an effective treatment for fever.

8- Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis and other such inflammatory conditions often trigger Fever Headache along with other symptoms that affect other organs. This is an autoimmune disorder where your body fails to distinguish between foreign bodies and its own tissues. The inflammatory mediators attack the joints and tissues and cause severe inflammation accompanied by fever.
The immune system becomes weak and the risk for developing other infections becomes high. Other symptoms that accompany fever headache are joint stiffness and swelling, joint tenderness, loss of appetite, and mild fever.

9- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

It is another autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its own healthy tissues and organs and has an effect on the skin, joints, brain, kidneys, heart, reproductive system, and other organs. Along with many other symptoms headache and fever accompany as the body’s immune system is already weak.
Only anti-inflammatory medications, steroids, and targeted immune system drugs are given for symptomatic relief.

10- Medications

There are some medications such as antibiotics, anti-hypertensives, and medications for seizures that cause Fever and Headache. This mostly includes Medication Overuse Headache which is accompanied by low-grade fever, nausea, agitation and irritability, loss of concentration and coordination, and memory issues.

11- Vaccinations

Fever is a very common symptom that appears within 24 hours of getting a vaccination and can last for up to 48 hours. MMR and chickenpox vaccination cause a delayed response that is a fever after 7 to 28 days of getting vaccinated.


The fever develops as a response to your body’s reaction to the vaccine as it is building immunity against the disease you are vaccinated for.


  • Body rash
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite

12- Cancer

It is very common for a person with any type of carcinoma to develop Fever and Headache. This fever headache might be indicative of an underlying or superimposed infection. The fever can also be triggered due to changes taking place in the body during metastasis. Other symptoms are nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and considerable weight loss.


What does fever indicate?

Fever, if occurs as an associated symptom, might indicate spread of infection in the body. As body temperature is raised to kill the bacteria.

How high the fever should be to classified as high grade fever?

Fever equal to or above than 102°F is classified as high grade fever

How are meningitis and encephalitis different?

Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain while meningitis is inflammation of the protective layers around the brain.