The Omicron variant has been responsible for the majority of COVID cases and has caused symptoms that are similar to the common cold such as runny nose, sore throat, body ache, chest pain, fatigue and headache. Headaches, in particular, are among the top five symptoms, according to a UK-based study. In fact, data from the Washington State Department of Health shows that 65% of patients reported having one. This makes it the most common symptom the health department detected in people with the variant. Persistent headaches can be an early sign of the Omicron variant. However, because headaches can be caused by a number of other conditions and triggers, it can be hard to tell exactly what’s causing your headache. So how do you tell if your headaches are being caused by COVID?
1. It is moderate to severely painful
You may experience a difference in the severity of your headaches depending on what is triggering your headache. For example, the stress and pressures of work may cause you to have a mild headache, while a migraine can be more severe.
A COVID headache, on the other hand, may feel like pulsing, pressing, or stabbing. These symptoms are typically uncommon for the average headache. Additionally, headaches caused by Omicron can last for up to three days even if you take painkillers.
2. It occurs across both sides of the head
What side of your head does your headache appear on? Headaches can appear on the left side, the right side or the middle region of your head depending on the reason for your headache or what’s triggering it. However, those with an Omicron-related headache tend to experience pain on both sides of their head. In fact, your entire head may feel tense and painful.
3. It may be accompanied by inflammation
According to experts, a headache caused by Omicron is our body’s inflammatory reaction as it works to fights off the virus. When the virus multiplies in the respiratory system, it affects our sinus, which leads to inflammation. A sinus infection could potentially make your headache worse.
Why headaches are more common with Omicron
Headaches seem to appear more commonly with the Omicron variant than it did with the Delta variant because Omicron seems to focus more on the upper respiratory tract, which includes your sinuses, according to Thomas Russo, M.D., professor and chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo in New York.
“A headache commonly occurs with inflammation of the sinuses,” he points out. Add in other factors like the stress of having COVID-19, and it’s “highly plausible” that people infected with Omicron would develop a headache, according to Dr. Russo.
What to do if you develop a headache
For starters, infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security says don’t