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Can a Migraine Cause a Fever?

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Migraine is a significant global health issue affecting millions of people annually. Migraine is recognized as a leading cause of disability. Characterized by an intense, often unilateral headache, a migraine is typically accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, visual disturbances (aura), and sensitivity to light and sound. They are generally episodic, with migraine attacks varying in frequency and duration among those living with the disorder.

Primary Migraine Symptoms

A migraine often starts with a headache that feels like pounding or beating on one side of the head. This pain is not the same for everyone. Some people might feel it on both sides. Others feel it move during the migraine.

Some common symptoms may include:

  • Throbbing Headache: The main sign of a migraine is a pulsating headache often felt on one side of the head.
  • Prodrome Phase Signs:
    • Mood Changes: You might feel unusually high or low spirits.
    • Food Cravings: You may suddenly want to eat certain foods.
    • Neck Stiffness: Your neck may feel tight or sore.
  • Aura Phase Effects (not everyone gets this phase):
    • Vision Changes: You might see bright spots or have temporary vision loss.
    • Speech Difficulties: You may have trouble speaking or finding the right words.
    • Sensory Changes: There could be tingling or numbness in your limbs.
  • Headache Phase Symptoms:
    • Nausea: Feeling sick to your stomach is common.
    • Vomiting: You may throw up.
    • Light Sensitivity: Bright light can be painful to endure.
    • Sound Intolerance: Loud sounds can be very uncomfortable.
  • Postdrome Phase After Effects:
    • Exhaustion: You might feel very tired or ‘washed out.’
    • Confusion: It can be hard to think clearly.
    • Weakness: A general sense of weakness is common.

A migraine attack is complex. They are not just headaches. They involve different stages, and each stage has its own set of symptoms. Understanding these can help manage them better.

Can A Migraine Cause Fever? The Medical Perspective

Understanding Fever as a Symptom

A fever is when your body temperature is higher than the usual 98.6°F (37°C). It usually happens when your body is fighting off germs like viruses or bacteria. This is your immune system in action, trying to get rid of the harmful germs. Inflammation inside your body or other illnesses can also cause a fever. When you have a headache and a fever simultaneously, it could mean you have different health problems.

Research on Migraine and Fever

Doctors have noticed that sometimes people with migraine also have a fever. This doesn’t happen a lot, but it does happen. Scientists are trying to figure out why. They are looking to see if a migraine can increase your body temperature.

So far, their studies haven’t proven that migraine can cause fever. It seems more likely that when someone has both, something else is going on that is making them sick. But scientists are still studying this.

Even though it’s rare, you should pay attention if you get a migraine and a fever at the same time. Since a fever can be a sign of many health issues, it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor. They can help figure out why you have a fever and a migraine at the same time. The doctor might ask questions about your symptoms and do some tests to find the cause.

Some conditions that may present similar to a migraine with a fever include:

  • Sinusitis: A sinus infection can cause severe headaches and fevers, similar to a migraine.
  • Influenza: The flu can cause high fevers and severe headaches, among other symptoms.
  • Meningitis: This infection of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord can cause intense headaches, fever, and a stiff neck.
  • Encephalitis: An inflammation of the brain that causes flu-like symptoms, including a fever, severe headache, or migraine-like symptoms.
  • Heatstroke: Overexposure to heat can lead to a headache and increased body temperature, resembling a migraine with fever.
  • Autoimmune Disorders: Conditions like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis can produce headaches and fever as part of their symptom profile.
  • Tick-borne Illnesses: Diseases like Lyme disease can cause various symptoms, including headaches and fever.
  • Sepsis: A complication of an infection that can lead to body-wide inflammation, fever, and potential organ failure, along with headaches.
  • Cellulitis: An infection of the skin and the soft tissues underneath can spread and cause fever and headaches.
  • COVID-19: This viral infection can present with a wide range of symptoms, including fever, headache, and other symptoms that could be mistaken for a migraine.
  • Strep Throat: Known primarily for sore throat and fever, it can also cause headaches.
  • Mononucleosis: Often causes fever, fatigue, and a severe sore throat, with headaches as a potential symptom.
  • Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): While a UTI mainly affects the bladder and urinary tract, it can cause fevers and headaches, especially if the infection spreads.
  • Hormonal Fluctuations: Such as those during menstruation or pregnancy, can trigger migraine and sometimes lead to febrile reactions.
  • Hypertension: High blood pressure can lead to headaches and potentially be associated with febrile symptoms.

It’s important to know that a migraine and a fever together could mean more than just a regular migraine. If you have both, especially with a high fever or other serious symptoms like a stiff neck, see a doctor immediately. They will ensure you get the proper treatment for whatever makes you sick.

When to Seek Medical Help

  • If your head hurts and you have a high fever, you should go to the doctor or the emergency room.
  • Go to the doctor immediately if your neck is very stiff, you have a rash, or you feel mixed up.
  • See a doctor immediately if you see flashes of light, difficulty speaking, or your body shakes uncontrollably.
  • Sometimes, a severe infection in your brain or around it can make you have a headache and fever. This is very serious, and you need doctors to help you.

What Doctors Do for Migraine With Fever

  • If you have a migraine and a fever, the doctor will find out why you have a fever.
  • You might take medicine to stop your head from hurting. This can include pills like triptans or ibuprofen.
  • To bring down a fever, you may take medicines called antipyretics.
  • If a germ is making you sick and causing a fever, you might need antibiotics.
  • Your doctor will choose the best medicine for you. They will tell you how to take it and what to watch out for.

How to Keep Migraine and Fever Away

  • Sleeping enough every night helps keep migraine away.
  • When you feel stressed, find ways to relax. This can help stop a migraine from starting.
  • Drink plenty of water. If you get dehydrated, it can make your head hurt.
  • Know what makes your migraine start, and try to stay away from these things.
  • Being active and eating healthy food is good for your whole body. It can keep you from getting sick and having fevers.
  • If you keep getting a migraine, write down what you were doing, eating, and how you were feeling when they started. This can help you and your doctor understand more about your headaches.

Understanding the relationship between a migraine and fever is crucial for effectively managing both conditions. While a migraine is not typically known to induce fever, any instance where they co-occur warrants a thorough medical evaluation to exclude other health issues. Consistent with the complexities of these conditions, personalized medical advice from health care providers remains the gold standard for treatment and management.

Getty image by Guillermo Spelucin

Originally published: November 10, 2023
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