Have a COVID headache? What you can expect, how to treat it, and when it might go away


If you’re sick with COVID, a headache may have been one of the first symptoms to develop—and it may be one of the last to disappear. 

Headache has ranked among the most common symptoms of COVID since the beginning of the pandemic. Unfortunately, it’s also becoming one of the most common symptoms among those with long COVID.

Here’s what you need to know about COVID headaches, from the experts.

Who gets COVID headaches?

While anyone with COVID can suffer from a COVID headache, they’re most common among the following groups of people, according to a 2022 journal article:

  • younger people
  • those who’ve frequently suffered from headaches or migraines before COVID
  • those who also have loss of taste or smell, and/or muscle aches, as part of their COVID symptoms

What does a COVID headache feel like?

Everyone experiences COVID symptoms differently. Some say that COVID headaches are no different than your run-of-the-mill headache. Others describe them as more of a tension or migraine-type headache. A 2022 study found that COVID headaches usually  occur on both sides of the head and are moderate to severe.

What causes a COVID headache?

Many experts believe COVID headaches occur when the trigeminal nerve—the largest of 12 cranial nerves—is activated by the virus. It may also be triggered by inflammation caused by the virus.

How should I treat my COVID headache?

Common over-the-counter painkillers are usually effective on COVID headaches.

When will my COVID headache go away?

Your headache could last as long as the acute phase of the virus—up to a week or two. In some cases, the headache may continue beyond this period. 

My COVID headache won’t go away. Do I have long COVID?

Quite possibly. Some good news: Long COVID headaches often improve with time—usually within a three-month window after illness, according to the 2022 article. However, some COVID headaches persist. 

Other neurological symptoms that may occur with long COVID include continued loss of taste and/or smell, brain fog, dizziness, abnormal movements, depression, and trouble concentrating.

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