Dehydration Headaches and How to Get Rid of Them

You wake up, get right to work, have your coffee or tea, and a couple hours later that annoying little headache rolls in like a thunderstorm. It prods, it pulls your attention, and it just won’t go away. So, you start wondering: Why do I have a headache? And what’s the best way to get rid it?

You might immediately think where’s the ibuprofen? which, according to this poll, is a very common reaction. But that headache you’re having just might be something you could look after without having to rely on pain medication.

The next time you get a headache, ask yourself: Did I drink enough water today? Your easiest and healthiest solution could very well be a glass full of H2O.

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So you forgot to drink enough water. It happens! Grab a glass and add Nuun Instant – it's specially formulated to rehydrate faster than water alone.

What Is a Dehydration Headache?

A dehydration headache is just what it sounds like: not enough water intake over a period of time, causing a headache. Since the brain is more than 70% water, having a healthy hydration routine is essential for optimal performance and feeling your best.

There are different types of headaches, ranging from chronic migraines to those caused by lack of sleep, and it’s important to know where dehydration headaches sit on the spectrum. Dehydration headaches are a symptom of something else, so this type is referred to as a secondary headache.

Since the root of the problem is that you haven’t had enough water, you can find the dehydration headache cure at your kitchen sink. Easy peasy.

Q: Does dehydration cause headaches?

A: Yes, being dehydrated can cause headaches. This can lead to irritability, difficulty focusing, and added stress. Proper hydration throughout the day, especially in warm weather, will help you attain a healthier lifestyle.

Q: I drink coffee/tea. Does that help with water intake?

A: While coffee and tea are made with water, their dehydrating effects make them less hydrating than plain water or an electrolyte infused beverage.

Q: How do I know that it's a dehydration headache?

A: Headaches can vary in intensity and pain. If you feel you have a low-intensity or acute headache, drinking water can be the first step to understanding which headache you may have. If your headache wanes in the following 30 minutes to two hours, then it’s likely the headache was caused due to low hydration.

Q: What does a dehydration headache feel like?

A: Dehydration headaches feel like a dull throbbing pain. Walking around and doing any physical activity could make the pain feel worse. You may feel irritable and have difficulty focusing. The dehydration headache location varies but is commonly felt in the top and back of the head.

How Do I Know If I Have a Dehydration Headache?


You might have a dehydration headache if you’re feeling irritable, thirsty, and fatigued. While these signs can accompany any headache, you can also ask yourself the following:

  • How many caffeinated drinks did I have today?
  • Did I have a few too many alcoholic drinks last night?
  • How many times have I refilled my water bottle?
  • Have I eaten enough food today? (If you skipped breakfast or missed lunch, that can contribute to a dehydration headache, since much of the water we consume comes from food.)

The old adage “hurry up and wait” comes to mind when trying to figure out if you have a dehydration headache. Drink some water, and see how you feel in half-an-hour to an hour. You’ll know you had a dehydration headache if the pain lessens or disappears. You can also speed up the process with electrolytes like Nuun Instant, which hydrates faster than water alone.

And for the record: chugging a bottle of plain water is not the best way to solve the problem. That’s like cramming for an exam! Establishing a regular hydration routine throughout the day is a better way to keep your body optimally hydrated and dehydration headaches at bay. Adding electrolytes will ensure that the water you drink enters your bloodstream quickly, rather than flushing straight through.

"The more we understand the connection between dehydration and headaches, the fast we can identify and solve the problem." 

How Do I Cure My Dehydration Headache?

People often say “Ugh, this _____ gives me a headache!” for anything between a traffic jam and a neighbor’s band practice.

While it’s a casual expression, it does point to the fact that we understand the cause-and-effect relationship between our environment and headaches. The more we understand the connection between dehydration and headaches, the faster we can identify and solve the problem: “Ugh, this lack of hydration gives me a headache.” Simple! Drink more water.

This study catalogs the perceptions that people believe trigger the most intense headaches. At the top of the list? Stress, missing meals, and dehydration. This shows that many people know dehydration headaches can really hurt — but they may underestimate their frequency.

The study participants estimated that dehydration headaches occur around twice a month, less often than other triggers like heavy exercise, not getting enough sleep, and salty foods. But dehydration plays a role in all three of those examples, too! Put it all together, and dehydration headaches may be affecting our lives more frequently than we realize.

Stay Hydrated, Stay Focused

Since we’re all human, we sometimes forget to keep our hydration in check. Our brains let us know and give us a headache to say hey, you’re forgetting something pretty important!

Even if we know the causes of our headaches, sometimes we rush to the medicine cabinet out of habit for that quick fix. Ibuprofen doesn’t cure a stressful day, an empty stomach, or dehydration. But you know what could help? Having a big ol’ glass of water.

If you need a little more inspiration, consider this study: A small trial took people who reported having moderate to severe headaches on a regular basis and not meeting recommended daily liquid intake goals (2.5 liters). They were then instructed to drink more water for a month. The result: a statistically significant number of participants experienced an improvement in their headaches!

Your well-being depends on water. Now that we’re aware that we can prevent these annoying little headaches, we should all get up right now (yes, this very moment) and go get some of that H2O.

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