Headache and stomach pain are two symptoms of a wide range of medical conditions. Causes can include stress, migraines, and some infections.
This article looks at different causes of a headache and stomach pain, and when to seek medical help.
Stress can have physical effects on the body and can affect mood and emotions. Symptoms vary from person to person.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, long-term stress can lead to:
- digestive disorders
- sleep disorders
Different people can manage stress in different ways.
Some may make changes to their diet, exercise, and sleeping habits.
A person may seek professional help to treat severe or long-term stress. These techniques can include therapies and medication.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that a person can experience headaches, while other symptoms could include diarrhea and vomiting. However, these appear to be more common in children.
Other flu symptoms include:
- sore throat
- muscle and body aches
- runny nose
- stuffy nose
A person may also experience a fever.
Flu is contagious, so a person with this condition should stay home and avoid contact with other people if possible.
They should also:
- drink plenty of fluids
- take OTC painkillers
Some people have a higher risk for complications of flu, including young children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with an underlying health condition.
Antiviral drugs can help reduce symptoms and prevent complications.
Viral gastroenteritis, also known as stomach flu, is a gut infection that occurs due to a virus.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), common viruses that cause viral gastroenteritis include:
Symptoms can include:
- abdominal cramps and pain
Viral gastroenteritis can also lead to dehydration, which can result in a headache. According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), other symptoms of dehydration include:
- dry mouth
- infrequent urination
Most cases of stomach flu improve on their own without medical treatment.
However, a person can take over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as loperamide and bismuth subsalicylate.
To avoid dehydration, a person should drink plenty of liquids.
Salmonella is a bacterial infection that a person can contract by consuming contaminated food or water, or touching infected animals.
The CDC state that symptoms typically begin within 6 hours to 6 days and can last for 4–7 days.
Most people experience:
- diarrhea that may be bloody
- stomach cramps
They may also experience headaches, nausea, and vomiting.
Most people recover without specific treatment. People with salmonella should drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
Symptoms can include:
- a sore throat
- muscle aches
In some cases, a person’s spleen or liver may swell. This can cause pain or a feeling of fullness in the upper left belly.
A person can help treat this condition by:
- taking OTC painkillers to help ease a fever
- getting plenty of rest
- drinking plenty of fluids
Migraine is a neurological condition that causes a moderate to severe headache.
A person may describe migraine as an intense pulsating or throbbing pain.
There are a few types of migraine:
- Migraine with aura: An aura is a series of sensory disturbances. They typically occur shortly before or during a migraine attack. A person may experience visual disturbances, sensory changes, or speech and language problems.
- Migraine without aura: This migraine can occur without any warning signs.
- Migraine aura without headache: This is when a person experiences an aura or other symptoms without a headache.
According to the NHS, other symptoms include:
- nausea and vomiting
- sensitivity to light and sound
- poor concentration
- feeling very hot or very cold
- abdominal pain
Treatment typically includes medications to help ease or prevent migraines. Examples include:
- OTC painkillers
- antiemetics, to help reduce nausea
Meningococcal disease refers to an illness that occurs due to a bacterium called Neisseria meningitis. The CDC state that these types of infections can be deadly in a few hours.
There are two common types of meningococcal infections:
This occurs when the bacteria infects the lining of the brain and spinal cord, which can cause swelling.
- stiff neck
- light sensitivity
This occurs when the bacteria enter the bloodstream, then multiply and damage the blood vessel walls.
Alongside severe aches and pains in the stomach, chest, joints, and muscles, other symptoms include:
- rapid breathing
- a dark purple rash that occurs in the later stages
If a person experiences the symptoms for either type of meningococcal infection, they should seek emergency medical help.
To treat meningococcal disease, a doctor will prescribe antibiotics immediately.
A person may also require:
- breathing support
- medications to help treat low blood pressure
However, a more serious blood pressure disorder is preeclampsia.
- a lasting headache
- pain in the upper belly
- a swollen face or hands
- vision changes
- difficulty breathing
A person should seek medical help if they experience any symptoms of preeclampsia.
Those with mild symptoms will need to monitor their blood pressure, keep track of how the fetus moves, and go to regular medical appointments.
More serious preeclampsia will require treatment in hospital, and sometimes early delivery.
A person should see a doctor if a headache and stomach pain are severe or if these symptoms persist.
If a person has any symptoms of preeclampsia, meningococcal disease, or dehydration, they should seek medical help.
Headaches and stomach pain can indicate an infection.
In most cases, a person can treat a mild infection at home with rest, fluids, and pain medication.
People may experience a headache and stomach pain during stressful periods or with a migraine. They can help manage symptoms with lifestyle changes.
In some cases, headaches and stomach pain could signify a more serious medical condition. Make a note of any other symptoms and seek medical attention for suspected preeclampsia, dehydration, or meningococcal disease.