What is the Connection Between Severe Headaches and Nausea?

Jacob Queen
Jacob Queen
Viruses and illnesses that affect the stomach can also cause headaches.
Viruses and illnesses that affect the stomach can also cause headaches.

There are several possible connections between severe headaches and nausea. Sometimes the headache itself is causing the nausea, especially in the case of migraines. In other cases, they can be two separate symptoms of a common disorder or condition. A lot of viruses and other illnesses that affect the stomach can also cause headaches, and this is one of the main connections.

Severe headaches can cause nausea.
Severe headaches can cause nausea.

When most people describe severe headache and nausea in direct association with each other, they are talking about migraines, and there is some research into how that connection works. Migraines are generally caused by a swelling in the blood vessels inside the brain, and this sort of swelling seems to be related to serotonin levels. There is also research suggesting that lowered serotonin levels can make people feel nauseous. Not all people who have migraines suffer with nausea, but it is very common. Sometimes migraine-related nausea is triggered by motion, and sometimes it doesn’t have any direct cause other than the migraine itself.

A hangover can cause severe headaches and nausea.
A hangover can cause severe headaches and nausea.

Another common condition where severe headaches and nausea can co-exist is a hangover. Many people who use alcohol may experience a very unpleasant condition as the alcohol wears off. This is usually felt the next morning after waking up. It has some symptoms in common with migraines, including sensitivity to light and sound, along with severe headaches and nausea.

Migraine headaches are typically caused by a swelling in the blood vessels located in the brain.
Migraine headaches are typically caused by a swelling in the blood vessels located in the brain.

There are many viruses and bacterial infections that cause severe headaches and nausea at the same time. Influenza, for example, is well-known to cause both symptoms. This is partly because both symptoms are manifestations of the immune system fighting off an illness. When a person becomes infected, one of the reactions of the immune system is often a fever, and fevers can potentially cause a headache. Another way the body has of dealing with foreign invaders is to expel things through vomiting and diarrhea, so a person may also become nauseous.

The body handles bacteria and viruses by expelling them, often by vomiting.
The body handles bacteria and viruses by expelling them, often by vomiting.

People who experience severe headache and nausea usually treat each condition separately. Most medicines that help control headache pain are not especially beneficial for nausea problems and vice-versa. Sometimes it is possible to focus treatment on the underlying condition, and if this approach is successful, the symptoms will generally go away as well. Some common drugs that help with headache pain are non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), acetaminophen, and special prescription medications. Treatments for nausea vary significantly depending on the underlying cause of the condition, but they could include things like promethazine hydrochloride.

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Discussion Comments

donasmrs

@simrin-- I don't want to freak you our but could you be pregnant? My sister had nausea and headaches during her first trimester.

Most people are familiar with nausea and vomiting as pregnancy symptoms, but headaches can happen too, due to hormonal changes.

fBoyle

@simrin-- Try not to worry. There are so many causes for headaches and nausea, it doesn't have to be something serious.

I had headaches and nausea when I had vertigo. Basically the pressure in my inner ear was messed up and it was causing headaches and nausea. It went away by itself after the pressure in my ear normalized.

Long-term antibiotic use can also create problems in the inner ear and cause these symptoms. It's probably something minor with an easy treatment.

SteamLouis

I've been experiencing frequent headaches and nausea for the past several weeks. I have no idea what might be causing it and I'm getting worried. I just made an appointment with my doctor, hopefully it's nothing serious.

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    • Viruses and illnesses that affect the stomach can also cause headaches.
      By: Piotr Marcinski
      Viruses and illnesses that affect the stomach can also cause headaches.
    • Severe headaches can cause nausea.
      By: Julija Sapic
      Severe headaches can cause nausea.
    • A hangover can cause severe headaches and nausea.
      By: bruno135_406
      A hangover can cause severe headaches and nausea.
    • Migraine headaches are typically caused by a swelling in the blood vessels located in the brain.
      By: Andy Dean
      Migraine headaches are typically caused by a swelling in the blood vessels located in the brain.
    • The body handles bacteria and viruses by expelling them, often by vomiting.
      By: Tom Wang
      The body handles bacteria and viruses by expelling them, often by vomiting.
    • Severe headaches and nausea can be caused by dehydration.
      By: science photo
      Severe headaches and nausea can be caused by dehydration.
    • Nausea is a sensation that generally occurs before an individual vomits.
      By: pathdoc
      Nausea is a sensation that generally occurs before an individual vomits.