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What are the Most Common Causes of Headache and Loss of Appetite?

Laura M. Sands
Updated: Feb 22, 2024

Most people experience a headache and loss of appetite at least once. While there is often no serious cause for this feeling, both could be a sign of an underlying condition. A few of the possible reasons for these symptoms include the influenza virus, stress or anxiety, meningitis, or the development of a migraine headache.

The influenza virus, commonly referred to as flu, may affect a person in several different ways. Many people who have it get a headache and an upset stomach, which includes a loss of appetite. People with the flu may also have a fever, painful joints, and muscle pain.

Stress and anxiety may also cause a person to experience headache and loss of appetite. Often, people who are feeling stressed or anxious will experience a tightening of muscles in the scalp, the neck, and the shoulder area. Tensing these muscles is one possible cause of stress headaches. Some people also lose their appetite when they are stressed; skipping meals can also cause headaches. Such headaches may be acute or ongoing, particularly in cases of chronic stress.

Headache is also a common symptom of meningitis, which is an inflammation of the membranes protecting the spinal cord and the brain. Meningitis is curable, but it is a very serious, possibly fatal condition if not properly treated. Individuals who have a headache, stiff neck, nausea, and a loss of appetite may be infected with meningitis.

Individuals suffering from migraines will also sometimes suffer a loss of appetite. Besides a headache, other migraine symptoms to be aware of are eye pain, blurry vision, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, light or sound sensitivity, sweating and chills. A severe headache in tandem with these symptoms may, in fact, be due to a migraine headache.

Treatment for headache and loss of appetite may be as simple as taking time out for rest and relaxation or may include over-the-counter medications or home remedies. When these do not work, however, medical intervention may be necessary. Often, these symptoms are fleeting, but when they persist and do not respond to traditional headache treatments, they may indicate that they are due to a serious condition.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Laura M. Sands
By Laura M. Sands
Laura Sands, the founder of a publishing company, brings her passion for writing and her expertise in digital publishing to her work. With a background in social sciences and extensive online work experience, she crafts compelling copy and content across various platforms. Her ability to understand and connect with target audiences makes her a skilled contributor to any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By Mor — On Feb 11, 2014

@KoiwiGal - I had a friend who would get a migraine whenever he had MSG. It was pretty awful and sometimes he would be sick for days.

It's kind of funny that migraines used to be thought of as basically just a headache and that they were considered to be mostly psychosomatic. The symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness and sometimes even blindness, so I don't know why it took so long for doctors to realize that there were actual physical causes for the condition.

By KoiwiGal — On Feb 11, 2014

@Ana1234 - I remember I once hurt my neck while I was sleeping and panicked, thinking that I had meningitis, when I woke up. But I tend to get migraines fairly often which is what the other symptoms turned out to be. It's usually a headache with dizziness and a bit of nausea for me, but I know people who get completely laid flat by migraines.

By Ana1234 — On Feb 10, 2014

If you suspect that you or someone else (like one of your kids, in particular) might have meningitis then you really need to go to the emergency room right away. The way you can tell if you have this particular condition when you have a headache with nausea, rather than just the flu, is to try and put your chin on your chest.

If your neck won't bend that way because of severe stiffness then go to a doctor straight away and try to keep the sick person away from anyone else, particularly children.

People still die from this every day, because they ignore it as an everyday flu until it gets so bad there's no way to save them. And it's contagious, so it often works its way through schools.

It takes five seconds to check, so get in the habit of doing that every time you think you might have the other symptoms.

Laura M. Sands
Laura M. Sands
Laura Sands, the founder of a publishing company, brings her passion for writing and her expertise in digital publishing...
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