Dehydration Headache

By Jay Herrera, DPT

pouring water from bottle into glass

A dehydration headache can impact anyone. Usually, these headaches are caused by a  loss of fluid from the body and are more specifically the  result of decreased electrolytes, minerals and enzymes in the blood due to that loss of volume.

How does this happen?  Most often this is due to excessive loss of fluids, meaning that the body is losing more water than it is taking in through food or drink. Examples can include: perspiring on a hot summer day,  working out at the gym and perspiring in the process, or  even gardening outside.

An illness that causes vomiting or diarrhea can be another example of how the body can lose fluids quickly.

When the body loses fluids, the reduction in circulating fluid can cause the brain to shrink and this contracting process will place tension on the cranium and the nerves and blood vessels surrounding the brain and consequently a headache can be experienced.



Symptoms other than headache can include: dizziness, low blood pressure, confusion, dark colored urine or not urinating, rapid heartbeat or breathing (panting),  extreme thirst, dry skin or  loss of skin volume, and  dry mouth.

Dehydration headache can be a chronic (long term) or acute  (short term) disorder. Often times people feel general body aches and fatigue. Muscles can become stiff.  Our bodies are constantly trying to deal with regulating fluids. An imbalance can impact muscle function and cause a deactivation of muscle contraction ability which can lead to true muscle weakness and then impact your ability to perform normal daily activities.

Depending on the cause of the dehydration; if there is a serious medical condition noted then seek a physician’s assessment immediately as prolonged fluid imbalance can developed into a life threatening situation.

Fluid imbalance due to excessive perspiration from activity can usually be replenished by drinking a liquid with electrolytes, minerals and minimal glucose. A sports drink mix can be helpful; however, do not overdo drinking sugary drinks. Sipping the drink slowly is ideal. Do what you can to reduce your body temperature as well, since fluid loss increases with higher body temperature, such as with fever or after working out. Sometimes a cool bath or shower can help. A damp cool cloth on your face and head can also work to decrease overheating and excessive perspiration. Properly managing dehydration and dehydration headache can help you to feel better quickly and get back to normal activity.