There are literally hundreds of reasons why a person can experience nausea in association with
a headache. This article will focus on the most common causes to help you find the relief you
COMMON CAUSES OF HEADACHE AND NAUSEA
Infection – an infection of bacterial, viral, parasitic, or fungal origin can cause headache and nausea.
Other symptoms of an infection such as fever, muscle cramping, diarrhea, and sore throat, usually
present themselves simultaneously in these instances.
Injury – such as a blow to the head, or a concussion. Nausea and headache can occur even days later.
In addition to nausea and headache, people who have received a blow to the head will usually experience impaired balance ,visual disturbances, dizziness, memory loss, and a ringing in the ears.
Neurological– tinnitus, vertigo, and migraines can all present with a headache and nausea
simultaneously. Other neurological sources, such as a cerviogenic headache can also be the root of
headaches with nausea.
Chemically induced – Introducing a chemical into your body that is perceived as harmful can result in
the body causing discomfort to force you to remedy the situation. Ingesting chemicals such as nicotine,
caffeine, and even legal medication can all induce both headache and nausea. Other chemical causes
of headache nausea are alcohol consumption and medication withdrawal. Symptoms of nausea and
headache may also be triggered as a result of your body lacking in the essential vitamins and minerals it
needs to function on a daily basis.
By far, the most common cause of headache and nausea are migraines. A throbbing headache,
sensitivity to light, and nausea, are all symptoms of a classic migraine. Migraine headaches are thought
to be caused by an inflammation of the nerve pathways, creating pressure and triggering the headache
with nausea. Migraine triggers vary from person to person.
Known causes of headaches include alcohol, allergies, and bright lights. Other triggers can be
hormonal, stress-related, or even caused by certain odors. Foods that are processed or baked, dairy
products, and nuts are also common triggers. Some people who are sensitive to MSG and nitrates
(found in hot dogs, bologna, and lunch meats) will also experience a migraine headache after ingesting
foods containing these additives. Keeping a daily diary of your activities and the foods you eat will be
helpful in uncovering your individual headache triggers.
In migraines, it has been determined that blood vessels on the brain surface swell in response to low
levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which may explain why more people with depression or other
neurological disorders experience more migraines than the general population. It is also interesting to
note that low serotonin levels has also been linked to both motion sickness and nausea.
Cluster headaches – while not common, some individuals do experience nausea with these headaches.
Cluster headaches are excruciating, one-sided, and often confused for migraines. The only way to tell a
cluster headache from a migraine is a difference in the frequency of occurrence.
Migraine variants are experienced almost exclusively in children. The following are migraine variants
to look out for:
Abdominal migraine – while most migraines usually involve headache pain, children can have
migraines that results in stomach pain instead. Nausea and vomiting are displayed, causing a lack of
Benign paroxysmal vertigo – this migraine variant is most often seen in toddlers. They suddenly lose
balance and may be unable to walk. Nausea and vomiting usually occurs with this variant also.
Cyclic vomiting syndrome – periods of nausea and vomiting lasting hours to days. While this is not a
migraine variation in itself, it shares many of the same triggers of migraine headaches. The majority of
children suffering from this go on to develop traditional migraines later in life.
POTENTIAL LIFE-THREATENING CAUSES OF HEADACHE AND NAUSEA
Sudden onset of severe headache, nausea, and vomiting in children should be immediately seen by a
pediatrician to rule out meningitis or encephalitis. Encephalitis is an inflammation and swelling of the
brain caused by a mosquito bite. Trimmers, personality changes, and coma can all be experienced with
In meningitis, the fluid surrounding the brain becomes infected, most often as a result of the flu or an
ear infection. A stiff neck (with or without a fever), dizziness, vision changes, and sleepiness are also
symptoms of meningitis.
Other potential life-threatening causes of headaches and nausea are a ruptured brain aneurysm or
Brain aneurysm – occurs when a blood vessel surrounding the brain swells. Aneurysms continually
swell until they burst and cause death. Most aneurysms are congenital- meaning you are born with
it. Smoking, arterial sclerosis, and alcohol consumption can all cause the worsening of an aneurysm.
Signs of a possible ruptured brain aneurysm is a sudden headache of increasing intensity, which brings
Stroke — symptoms are sudden nausea, headache, confusion, numbness on one side or in a limb, and
also a drooping in the face. Both of these require IMMEDIATE medical attention as they are life-
Headache accompanied by nausea should not be taken lightly. If you are frequently experiencing
recurring headache and nausea, I recommend you visit a medical professional to determine the different
causes of your symptoms. A serious medical condition could be the root of your pain.