What to Drink for a Headache

The fluids you should drink and which ones to avoid when you have a headache

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When you're dealing with a headache, you may wonder what you should and should not drink to help get rid of it. Maybe you crave a quick solution and hope a cup of coffee or a tall glass of water will ease your pain. 

Below, you can see whether what you're reaching for is a yes, no, or maybe.

Water coming out of a tap
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Water

While a dehydration headache is not classified on its own by the International Headache Society, water deprivation is reported as a headache trigger. If you're dehydrated, water will usually alleviate the pain within the first 30 minutes, according to a study in Headache.

Likewise, not drinking enough water has been linked to tension-type headaches and migraines. So, in a pinch, consider drinking a tall glass of water for your head pain. It might just help.

It's best to choose water over sugary sodas or juices. If you're bored by plain old water, consider squeezing a lemon or lime into it for flavor or indulging in flavored sparkling water.

If you're hungry, grab a healthy snack (like a protein bar or granola bar) along with your glass of water. Fasting and skipping meals are common headache and migraine triggers, so filling up your stomach with nutritious foods (instead of sugary drinks) may also help.

Alcohol

While alcohol can trigger tension-type headaches, it's more commonly associated with migraines and cluster headaches.

The International Headache Society has classified an alcohol-induced headache on its own, dividing it into two categories:

A classic alcohol-induced headache is often located on both sides of the head and has a throbbing quality like that of a migraine.

Certainly, if alcohol can cause a headache on its own, then you want to avoid it if you are already suffering from head pain.

Moreover, alcohol has a diuretic effect, meaning it makes you urinate more—hence, you lose more water and could become dehydrated.

Caffeine

A lot of people wonder whether they should drink a steaming cup of joe when they have a headache. The answer is not as cut and dried as one would think—caffeine presents a paradoxical dilemma in headache management.

This is because, while caffeine is commonly used to treat tension-type headaches and migraines, daily caffeine consumption has been linked to both chronic migraines and rebound headaches. Additionally, missing your morning coffee can lead to a caffeine withdrawal headache.

So, should you drink that extra cup of coffee when plagued by a headache? It may be worth a try, but be wary of the fact that while caffeine may stop your headache in the short-term, it may actually worsen your headache disorder in the long term.

Energy Drinks

Energy drinks contain some sort of stimulant, most often caffeine, so the coffee conundrum applies to energy drinks, as well.

Even more, though, energy drinks contain sugar (as well as other ingredients), and research published in 2016 suggests that for children and adolescents, energy-drinks consumption is linked to physical side effects including headaches and stomachaches.

A Word From Verywell

The big picture here is to take charge of your headache health.

Question your habits. Are you drinking too much caffeine? Are you substituting soda for water?

Don't be overly critical of yourself, but look for small changes that can have huge impacts on your headaches. Less pain can improve your quality of life and daily functionality.

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  2. Spigt M, Weerkamp N, Troost J, Schayck CPV, Knottnerus JA. A randomized trial on the effects of regular water intake in patients with recurrent headachesFamily Practice. 2011;29(4):370-375. doi:10.1093/fampra/cmr112.

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  5. Visram S, Cheetham M, Riby DM, Crossley SJ, Lake AA. Consumption of energy drinks by children and young people: a rapid review examining evidence of physical effects and consumer attitudesBMJ Open. 2016;6(10):e010380. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2015-010380