Headaches and Dehydration

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About dehydration

To function correctly and remain healthy, our body requires the correct internal balance of water and electrolytes. Every day our body loses fluid and electrolytes via urine, sweat, saliva, and other bodily fluids. Usually, a normal, healthy diet will serve to replace lost electrolytes and fluid. Certain conditions such as vomiting and diarrhea, heavy sweating, or lack of food and fluid intake can lead to inadequate levels of fluid and electrolytes within our bodies. This is known as dehydration.

We lose fluid and electrolytes via four major mechanisms:

  1. Vomiting
  2. Diarrhea
  3. Sweat
  4. Urine

Risk factors for dehydration

There are various situations where our bodies may be at risk of dehydration:

Vomiting, diarrhea, and fever—dehydration is the biggest health risk associated with vomiting and diarrhea (i.e. caused by stomach flu, food poisoning, preparation for colonoscopies,  and morning sickness etc.)

Heat, increased exposure to the sun and increased physical activity (due to excess sweat loss) can lead to dehydration.

Common signs and symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Fatigue / Lethargy
  • Dizziness, particularly upon standing due to low blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Dark yellow urine, or decreased urine output
  • Sticky or dry mouth
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Irritability

What is the link between headaches and dehydration?

Headaches are a common symptom of mild to moderate dehydration. In fact, many types of headaches (such as migraine) can be triggered by dehydration. When you are experiencing a headache, it is important to consider whether dehydration has played a role.

How to prevent and relieve dehydration?

Replacing lost fluid and electrolytes with or oral rehydration solution is the most important aspect of managing dehydration.  Unless severe, water is adequate.

Oral rehydration solutions are scientifically formulated to contain the correct balance of glucose and electrolytes for rapid rehydration. The formulation is based on the World Health Organization criteria for effective rehydration. Sugary drinks (such as soda or sports drinks) or overly salty sports drinks are not effective as oral rehydration solutions, as they do not adequately restore lost electrolytes (which help the body to retain fluid), and may actually increase dehydration

Oral rehydration solutions and headaches

Under normal circumstances, a good hydration status can be adequately achieved with water and a healthy, balanced diet. However, if you are at risk of dehydration, an oral rehydration solution may have some advantages, including that rehydration is likely to be more rapid.

This information was created by Hydralyte, in affiliation with the National Headache Foundation.

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