7 signs your headache may be heat stroke

Have you ever spent a long day at the beach or a summer festival only to come home with a throbbing headache?

I have. And it can really put a damper on your summer. You want to go out and enjoy all that the “dog days” have to offer… but not if you have to pay for it later with a mind-numbing headache.

It’s easy to blame these headaches on the heat. But if you really want to prevent them from stealing all of your end-of-summer fun, you need to look a bit deeper. Because in most cases, it’s not the heat itself that causes headaches but its sinister side effect… dehydration.

You may be thinking, “But how could I possibly be dehydrated? I drink plenty of water.” That’s what I always thought too… until I came home from a day at the beach with a splitting headache. And I drink water like a fish whether it’s hot or not. But the rules of water drinking are a bit different in the summer… especially when you’re out all day in the heat.

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When you’re sweating all day, your body loses water and electrolytes like crazy. As a result, your blood vessels narrow, cutting the supply of blood and oxygen to your brain. And once this happens, an excruciating headache is not far behind.

So in the heat, your regular drinking habits won’t cut it. You need to drink two to four glasses of water per hour to keep yourself healthy and hydrated. And if you’re drinking alcohol or coffee throughout the day, you need to drink even more water because both of those beverages dehydrate you big time. You also need to make sure you’re restoring your electrolytes, so throwing some all-natural coconut water in the mix wouldn’t hurt either. You could make a pitcher of hydrating switchel too.

The good news is, if you try these hydrating tips, you may very well put an end to those pesky summer headaches. But be warned… dehydration makes you more susceptible to heatstroke. And a headache can be a symptom of heatstroke. Heatstroke is serious. So if you have a heat-induced headache, watch out for other heatstroke symptoms like:

  • A high fever
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle weakness or cramps

The heat can also be a trigger for migraines if you’re prone to those. But one key piece of advice regardless of what’s causing your heat headache… don’t reach for over-the-counter NSAID pain relievers like aspirin or ibuprofen. Besides the fact they come with side effects (like ulcers and stomach bleeding), they could actually make your headaches worse.

If you get frequent headaches and resort to your trusty bottle of aspirin too much… like 15 times a month or more… you could develop a condition called rebound headaches. It’s a vicious cycle where your pain reliever actually leads to chronic, daily headaches. So put the pill bottle away and try nature’s best health remedy instead… water.


  1. “Headaches and the heat—what really is causing the pain?” Baylor College of Medicine. MedicalXpress
  2. “During Hot Weather – What to Do to Prevent Heat Problems.” Contra Costa Health Services
  3. “Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke.” FamilyDoctor.org
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.