Heat headache: Causes, symptoms and prevention

Heat headaches are common among people during the summer season. Here are the symptoms, causes and treatment of heat headaches.

Summer time means long sunny days, and the scorching heat wearing you down. Doesn’t sound great, does it? But that’s what happens and you could be at risk of getting a heat headache as well. Headaches are common occurrences, but they become more frequent during the summer season. Dehydration, heat exhaustion, underlying pollutants, and several other things can contribute to a heat headache. If you experience a headache as the temperature rises, here’s everything you need to know.

What is a heat headache?

A heat headache or heat-induced headache occurs when you are exposed to high temperatures or heat. It typically develops when your body becomes overheated and struggles to regulate its temperature properly. This can happen due to various reasons such as hot weather, prolonged exposure to the sun, strenuous physical activity in hot environments, or even spending time in saunas or hot tubs.

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Heat headaches are common during hot weather. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Can hot weather give you a headache?

Excessive heat can cause headaches, says Internal Medicine specialist Dr Divya Gopal. However, this might not be the case always. Sometimes, your body’s reaction to heat can also cause headaches. Heat-induced headaches can be exacerbated by weather-related stimuli such as sun glare, excessive humidity, bright light, and abrupt changes in barometric pressure. Dehydration is also another frequent cause. Your body needs more water in hotter temperatures to make up for the fluids lost through perspiration.

Dehydration may also affect your serotonin levels which can also fluctuate as a result of weather, which can further aggravate headaches. Heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion, which has a headache as one of its symptoms, are more likely to occur with prolonged exposure to high temperatures. Thus, it is important to rule out heat-related conditions like heat exhaustion or even heat stroke if you have a headache after being outside in hot weather, explains the expert.

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What are the symptoms of heat headaches?

The signs and symptoms of heat headaches may vary from one person to another. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, someone having a head headache may experience other symptoms apart from a headache, including:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle cramps or tightness in the muscles
  • Fainting
  • Intense thirst that doesn’t go away even after consuming fluids.
  • Cold skin
  • Fast or weak pulse

If left untreated, these signs and symptoms may even lead to a heat stroke. Make sure you are consulting someone immediately to avoid complications. However, if these symptoms do not accompany the headache, it may manifest as exhaustion, light sensitivity, dehydration, or a throbbing or dull feeling in the head.

How to prevent heat headaches?

Here are some of the most effective ways to avoid a heat headache, as explained by the expert:

1. Avoid spending time outdoors

You can avoid exposure during the peak hours when the sun is at its brightest and the temperature is the hottest. You should limit outdoor activities during the hottest time of the day. If you are out, you should seek shade to lessen exposure to intense heat.

2. Avoid dehydration

Dehydration is one of the symptoms of heat headache or exhaustion, you should try to avoid it by staying hydrated. Drink lots of water, especially while spending time outside in hot weather.

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Also Read: Dehydration in summer: Beware of these 5 signs and symptoms

3. Mind what you wear

Apart from protective accessories like caps and sunglasses, wearing light, breezy clothing can also be beneficial.

4. Maintain electrolyte balance

Sports beverages that replace electrolytes can also help you keep hydrated and maintain electrolyte balance when training indoors. Check out some healthy electrolyte-rich drinks you may consume to prevent dehydration.

5. Eat healthy

Nutrition is very important, and you should eat a well-balanced diet rich in foods with a high water content. Eat a balanced diet containing all essential nutrients. Avoid caffeinated drinks during the hot weather.

6. Use cold therapy

If you experience a heat headache or feel that your body temperature is rising, use a cold or ice pack to bring your body temperature to normal.

heat headache
Heat headaches are common during the hot weather. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

7. Use sunscreen

Reapplying sunscreen often and avoiding prolonged exposure to high temperatures may also help reduce the risk of heat-related headaches

If you or anyone you know experiences these symptoms, make sure to follow up with a doctor and take precautions when required.

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