Headaches with nausea: causes and therapy

Kopfschmerzen mit Übelkeit: Ursachen und Therapie

Headaches are a common problem for many people. In Germany alone, around 70% and thus around 54 million people suffer from headaches. They torment you through the day and you keep thinking about whether you should go to the doctor or take medication.

Although they usually only stay for hours or a few days, one suffers a lot with them. It's even worse when they occur in combination with other symptoms, such as nausea.

In this article, we will explain everything to do with the symptoms of headaches in combination with nausea, the reasons and symptoms, and other symptoms that headaches and nausea often cause. Finally, in this article you will learn what you can do against headaches and nausea so that you feel better again.

the essentials in brief

  • There are many different causes of headaches and nausea. These range from harmless reasons such as dehydration or tension to hereditary causes, such as can be the case with migraines, as well as hormonal causes, such as periods.
  • There are different types of headaches. Migraines and tension pains are the most common. These have a different duration, strength and are unilateral or bilateral.
  • Since there are different types and causes of your pain, they also need to be treated differently. You can find out the type and cause as well as the perfect treatment method from your doctor.

Background: What you should know about headaches with nausea

Headaches and nausea are bothersome enough as it is, but together they affect your well-being all the more. Many people suffer from headaches and every tenth even from migraines.

Woman is tired on the couch

On days when you suffer from a headache, even the simplest of everyday tasks becomes tedious and tedious. That’s why you often spend such days just in bed, hoping that sleep or medication will help you. (Image Source: Zohre Nemati / Unsplash)

Often the headache does not come alone, but with other symptoms. Daily life is severely affected by this, which is why one would like to get rid of the pain as quickly as possible.

Why do headaches cause nausea?

There are several reasons why you might be suffering from headaches and nausea at the same time. These can be harmless but also more serious, so you should not underestimate them gullibly. Below we list a few possible causes for your symptoms:

  • Diet: Your diet is often related to your well-being. Problems are caused by the substances histamine, glutamate and aspartame. You can find histamine in storable products such as cheese, ham, bananas, nuts, dried fruit, alcoholic beverages as well as in canned and frozen foods. You can find glutamate, which is often referred to as E621 or monosodium glutamate in the ingredients table, in convenience foods. This causes headaches in combination with nausea, especially in the half hour after eating.
  • Migraines : This is often related to diet. Histamine and glutamate can trigger migraine attacks. You have to be careful with alcohol. This increases the histamine effect by a factor of three to four, so you don't get a headache from dried fruit, for example, but you can get headaches when you combine it with alcohol.(1)
  • Alcohol: As previously mentioned, alcohol can cause headaches and nausea. Many describe this feeling as a "hangover". The pain is caused by the body trying to break down the methanol contained in the alcohol. This process causes headaches, nausea and other symptoms, but these only last for a limited time.
  • Puberty: Since migraines are inherited, teenagers often suffer from headaches after puberty. Stress, which teenagers often suffer from, also leads to migraine attacks and nausea.(2)
  • Flu: In addition to fever , sore throat, nausea and body aches, influenza can also lead to headaches. Since 2019, the COVID-19 can also be a reason for headaches. This usually occurs with a dry cough and the loss of taste and smell, but can also occur without symptoms.
  • Pregnancy: Headaches and nausea can still often be observed up to the 39th week of pregnancy and are due to the altered hormone balance.(3)
  • Menopause: A change in the hormonal balance also takes place during menopause, which is why the symptoms can also occur here.
  • Fasting: By voluntarily abstaining from food, you can do your body a health-proven favor, but you often suffer from tiredness, circulatory problems, headaches and nausea during the fast.
  • Cerebral hemorrhage: A more serious reason could be a cerebral hemorrhage. Such show several symptoms, including vomiting, headaches and nausea. Afterwards, other symptoms such as dizziness or loss of consciousness appear, so you should go to the hospital as soon as possible.
  • Cluster headaches: These are severe, unilateral pains in the eye area that can radiate to the temple. Red eyes and a sweaty forehead often appear. There are also migraine-like pains such as nausea and sensitivity to light or noise.(4)
  • Period : Many women suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which often causes headaches, nausea, but also psychological symptoms such as mood swings or a bad mood.
  • Sport : Headaches and nausea can occur if the body is overexerted. This is mainly due to the hypoglycaemia caused by the overexertion.
  • Sun : Sunstroke irritates your meninges. Typical symptoms are headaches, nausea, dizziness, a red head and, in the worst case, confusion and unconsciousness.
  • Weather : Sensitivity to the weather can also cause headaches, nausea, problems with blood pressure or sleep disorders.

However, there are also many other possibilities for your complaints. Therefore, you should always discuss your medical problems with your doctor.

How long does a nausea headache last?

There are different types of headaches and they last for different lengths of time depending on the type.(5) In the following table we compare the two most common types:

migraine tension headache
Mostly one-sided Both sides, also on the back of the head and the crown region
Lasts between 4 - 72 hours Lasts from 30 minutes to several days
Strong pain Lighter pain

As you can see, headaches and nausea last different lengths of time, but a few days at most. However, since it often feels like an eternity because of the severe pain, you should consult a doctor or resort to over-the-counter painkillers if the pain lasts longer and is more severe.

In which area are the headaches dangerous?

As a rule, headaches are very annoying but rarely dangerous. However, if you occur suddenly and very severely, coupled with a stiff neck, you should see a doctor. We also recommend that you contact your doctor if you experience an abrupt, severe headache in combination with fever, nausea or vomiting.

What other symptoms are often associated with headaches and nausea?

Headaches with nausea do not often occur alone, but in combination with other symptoms. The most common symptoms include the following in particular:

  • Vomit
  • hot flashes
  • stomach pain
  • Fever
  • dizziness
  • Diarrhea

If you want to treat the pain with medication, you can take specific medication for individual symptoms.

What should you do if you have headaches and nausea?

Here you can use different methods. Often people do nothing at all and hope that sleep and some time will relieve the pain. However, you can also treat the individual symptoms with medication. There are numerous pills that do not require a doctor's prescription. The most well-known medications for nausea are the Vomex medications.

To find the right headache pills, you should first know what type of headache you have. Of course, the easiest way is to go to the doctor. To suppress the pain, however, many resort to the classics such as ibuprofen, paracetamol or aspirin.

doctor with stethoscope

Painkillers can help you with your symptoms in the short term. However, if you have frequent symptoms, you should ask your doctor about the reason for them. (Image source: Online Marketing / Unsplash)

Although the drugs can be bought without a prescription, you should always consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking them. The former, in particular, is responsible for identifying the cause of your pain and prescribing you the right medication at the right dose.

Why do you suffer from headaches and nausea in the morning or in the evening?

Many people suffer from headaches, especially in the morning or evening. Again, the reasons for this can be very different. Reasons for headaches in the morning can be, for example, a bad sleep-wake cycle. A new mattress or pillow could help you with this problem.

Tension in the throat, neck and shoulder girdle can also lead to headaches. Tension can also arise in your jaw joints from grinding your teeth. So talk to your dentist about whether this is the case for you. You can solve this problem with a splint or a bite guard. Other causes can be stress or too much alcohol consumption the previous day.

Headaches in the evening can be caused by exhaustion after a long day, as well as dehydration, stress, lack of sugar or lack of sleep. The weather can also be a possibility.

If you often have headaches in the evening or in the morning, you should definitely discuss this with your doctor. Because in addition to harmless reasons such as tension, which can easily be solved with a better mattress or massage, there are of course also more serious reasons such as a brain tumor.

Why do women suffer more often from headaches with nausea?

This is particularly related to the fact that their hormone levels are changing. That is why women with menstrual headaches as well as headaches during menopause. Other symptoms often occur as well, such as irritability or nausea.

Headaches with nausea: what you can do about it

Because headaches occur from many different causes and present with a wide variety of symptoms, there are of course many different types of treatment for it. However, since each pain is individual and we do not know exactly why you suffer from headaches and nausea, you should always consult a doctor if you experience frequent and severe pain.

If you rarely feel pain and need a few useful tips against it, you can try the following at any time.


A good diet can save you from headaches, a bad one can lead to them. If you are already feeling pain, a glass of water may help. A lack of fluids is often responsible for your symptoms. Tea types can also help. They give the liquid and relax you. So try a lavender, rose petal, lemon balm, willow beef tea or other herbal and plant teas.(6)

Our advice: Caffeine and sugar can also help you. These get your circulation and blood sugar going again, which will make you feel better.(7)


You shouldn't overexert yourself, but if the pain is minimal, a little exercise can do you good. A walk can also help you.

Our advice: The main thing is that you are out in the fresh air and stimulate your blood circulation.


Here you can choose between natural remedies as well as real medicines such as the tablets already mentioned. The natural ones include, for example, peppermint oils that you can rub yourself in. These have a relaxing effect and can relieve your stress and pain. Heat patches and cherry pit pillows also relax your muscles and are alternatives to tablets.

Our advice: But here too, if the pain is severe and occurs more frequently, go to your doctor and get advice on medication.(8)


Headaches and nausea often occur together and can have different causes. They also come with other symptoms from time to time. As a rule, this lasts for a maximum of three days as long as the pain is not of dangerous origin. However, most pain passes much sooner.

The types of treatment are just as varied as the causes. Depending on the symptom and cause, the complaints have to be treated differently. Here you have the choice between natural methods such as sport, sleep or similar, as well as drug treatments with painkillers.

However, you should not take these frequently and without consulting your doctor. Although the probability that the pain is harmless is significantly higher than that it is something more serious, you should discuss it with your doctor because it is after all about your health.


  1. Oldendorf S. UGBforum 4/16, pp. 173-175 Source
  2. Dtsch Ärzteebl 2005; 102: A 1953-1959 [issue 27] Source
  3. MacGregor EA. Headache in pregnancy. Neurol Clinic. 2012 Aug;30(3):835-66. doi: 10.1016/j.ncl.2012.04.001. Epub 2012 Jun 9. PMID: 22840792. Source
  4. May A, Schwedt TJ, Magis D, Pozo-Rosich P, Evers S, Wang SJ. Cluster headache. Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2018 Mar 1;4:18006. doi: 10.1038/nrdp.2018.6. PMID: 29493566. Source
  5. Carbaate PA, Couturier EG. Hoofdpijn: classificatie en diagnose [Headache: classification and diagnosis]. Ned Tijdschr Tandheelkd. 2016 Nov;123(11):539-544. dutch. doi: 10.5177/ntvt.2016.11.16122. PMID: 27834408. Source
  6. Khorsha F, Mirzababaei A, Togha M, Mirzaei K. Association of drinking water and migraine headache severity. J Clin Neurosci. 2020 Jul;77:81-84. doi: 10.1016/j.jocn.2020.05.034. Epub 2020 May 20. PMID: 32446809. Source
  7. Lipton RB, Diener HC, Robbins MS, Garas SY, Patel K. Caffeine in the management of patients with headache. J Headache Pain. 2017 Oct 24;18(1):107. doi: 10.1186/s10194-017-0806-2. PMID: 29067618; PMCID: PMC5655397. Source
  8. Millstine D, Chen CY, Bauer B. Complementary and integrative medicine in the management of headache. BMJ 2017 May 16;357:j1805. doi: 10.1136/bmj.j1805. PMID: 28512119. Source
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