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Headache and Nausea: Everything You Need To Know

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Jen Mallari · Updated Feb 11, 2023

Headache and Nausea: Everything You Need To Know

There are people who feel headache and nausea together, and this is usually common. Most often than not, these are not life-threatening in any way. However, there are rare cases when headache with nausea is sign for  much severe health conditions such as brain aneurysm or brain tumor. 

What are the Possible Causes of Headache and Nausea?

Headache with nausea is usually known as a migraine headache. And the exact cause behind this type of health condition is unknown. Some health professionals speculate that serotonin has something to do with the cause of migraine headaches. Moreover, serotonin has effects on the blood vessels — for instance, when serotonin levels are high, this causes the blood vessels to shrink and tighten. 

On the other hand, when serotonin levels become low the blood vessels will start to swell. Once swelling happens to the blood vessels a person will start to feel pain.

Another possible cause of headache with nausea is hereditary causes. There have been studies that show a connection between genes and headache and nausea. According to the American Migraine Foundation, if one parent experiences migraines then there is a 50% possibility that their child will get migraines as they age as well. Meanwhile, there is a 75% probability if both parents experience migraines.

Lastly, research has shown that women are much more susceptible to headache with nausea due to hormonal fluctuations. Women experience hormonal fluctuations during their period, pregnancy, and menopause

What Triggers Headache and Nausea?

While the causes mentioned above are not not proven to be an actual cause of headache and nausea, you may refer to the triggers that may make headache and nausea happen:

  • Not eating on time can trigger headache and nausea. 
  • Lights that are flashing or are too bright can also be a trigger. 
  • Consuming too much caffeine and caffeine withdrawal can trigger headache and nausea since the blood vessels have already become accustomed to the caffeine intake. 
  • Taking headache medications too often can cause a rebound headache. 
  • There are certain foods that can trigger headache and nausea, such as soy sauce, papaya, onions, raisins, red plums, figs, caffeine, lentils, avocados, aged cheese, as well as processed, canned, aged, and cured meats. 
  • In addition, headache and nausea can be spotted during the attack stage of migraines. The symptoms of the attack stage include:

    • Pain on one side of the head. There is also a possibility for pain to be felt on both sides of the head. 
    • Experiencing nausea and vomiting. 
    • Feeling pain that is either throbbing or pulsating. 
    • Being sensitive to sound and light. Some people may also become sensitive to smell and touch. 

    When Should You See a Doctor?

    In general, migraines go away over time. While the pain and discomfort can be considerable, migraines are not a reason to be concerned about serious illness. However, you should see a doctor if you start to experience symptoms of a severe health condition such as a brain aneurysm or brain tumor.

    Symptoms of brain aneurysm include:

    • Nausea and/or projectile/forceful vomiting
    • Seizure
    • Feeling confused
    • Feeling weak
    • Being overly sensitive to light 
    • Experiencing sudden headaches or headaches that are extremely painful
    • Having blurred or double vision
    • Eyelids are drooping 
    • Pupils are dilated 
    • Pain above and behind the eyes
    • Fainting 

    Symptoms of brain tumor:

    • Difficulties in speaking 
    • Problems with hearing 
    • Feeling confusion a lot more often than usual
    • Difficulty with balance
    • Feeling nauseous or having the urge to vomit a lot more often 
    • Gradually losing sensation or losing movement in the arms and legs 
    • Always feeling fatigued
    • Difficulty in making decisions 
    • Experiencing seizures (even for those who have never experienced having seizures before)
    • Headaches are becoming more frequent than usual
    • Problems with vision (loss of peripheral vision, blurry vision, and double vision)
    • Erratic changes in behavior and mood 
    • Difficulties in following simple commands 

    Take note of these symptoms and observe how you are feeling. If these symptoms do not go away even after treatment or if the symptoms are the cause of considerable difficulties, then you must visit the doctor immediately. 

    Key Takeaway

    Headaches with nausea may be common, but you must keep a close eye on the symptoms. In rare instances, these will indicate if you are experiencing symptoms of a more severe health condition. 

    Learn more about Headaches and Migraines here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


    Written by Jen Mallari · Updated Feb 11, 2023

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