A heat headache can occur when the weather is hot or during physical activities that raise the body temperature. Treatments and preventive steps such as drinking liquids and avoiding sun exposure may help.

In this article, we discuss the causes of heat headaches, other symptoms, treatment options, and more.

A woman gets a heat headache while exercising.Share on Pinterest
Exercising while dehydrated may lead to a heat headache.

Heat headaches are unlikely to result from the heat itself. In most cases, the cause will be another trigger that is associated with heat.

The following are some common triggers of headaches in warmer temperatures:


According to Baylor College of Medicine, a likely cause of heat-related headaches may actually be dehydration. Dehydration triggers a headache because a lack of liquids leads to the constriction of blood vessels.

Heat-related illnesses

Heat-related illnesses are common during warmer months. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that heat-related illnesses, such as heatstroke and heat exhaustion, are preventable.

A person should limit their time in hot environments and avoid excessive exercise in the heat. If a person develops either heat exhaustion or heatstroke, a headache is a common symptom.

Other headache triggers

Several environmental triggers can potentially cause a headache or migraine to occur. According to the American Migraine Foundation, some potential headache or migraine triggers that are common in warmer months include:

  • too much sun or light
  • dehydration from not drinking enough
  • fragrances from perfumes or sunscreen
  • not following a routine by skipping meals
  • not following a routine by skipping medication
  • medication becoming less effective at higher temperatures
  • exercising in the heat

Heat or environmental headaches may present different symptoms depending on what is causing them.

Heat exhaustion

If heat exhaustion is the cause of a headache, a person may experience additional symptoms relating to being overheated. According to the CDC, the following are some warning signs of heat exhaustion:


Heatstroke has similar symptoms to heat exhaustion, but it is more serious. A person should call 911 if someone experiences the following symptoms:

  • hot, dry, or damp skin
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • nausea or vomiting
  • strong, fast heartbeat
  • high body temperature above 103°F
  • reddened skin, in people with lighter skin tones


In addition to headaches, dehydration can cause other symptoms. According to Dignity Health, a person who is dehydrated may experience the following symptoms:

Without proper treatment, dehydration can become severe. A person should call 911 if they experience any of the following symptoms:


People with migraine often experience other symptoms in addition to a severe pain in the head.

According to the Office on Women’s Health, symptoms of migraine can include:

  • an intense, throbbing headache on one or both sides of the head
  • sensitivity to light
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • aura, which affects about 1 in 5 people with migraine

Learn more about the differences between a headache and migraine here.

A person can take steps to prevent and treat headaches due to heat, dehydration, or other environmental triggers.


The American Migraine Foundation advise people to take steps to prevent headaches when enjoying warmer temperatures. These include:

  • drinking plenty of liquids throughout the day
  • avoiding excessive sun exposure
  • taking regular breaks in shaded areas
  • wearing polarized sunglasses
  • wearing fragrance-free sunscreen or other lotions
  • avoiding exercise in extreme heat
  • continuing to eat meals on a normal schedule
  • taking medications according to the prescription
  • keeping medications at room temperature


If a person has a headache, some self-care techniques may help reduce or eliminate the pain. These include:

  • taking a rest in a shaded area
  • using a cold pack or ice to help lower the body temperature
  • avoiding caffeinated beverages
  • waiting until it is cooler to exercise

A person can take over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, as necessary. However, they should talk to their doctor before taking OTC medications if they have preexisting medical conditions, are pregnant, or are taking other medications.

If a person is experiencing heat exhaustion, the CDC recommend taking the following steps:

  • sipping cold water
  • moving to a cooler location
  • loosening clothing
  • taking a cool bath
  • dampening clothes with cold water

For a migraine headache, a person should follow all the recommendations that their healthcare provider gives them. Following the proper dosage on medications as well as making lifestyle changes, such as avoiding known triggers, can help prevent future migraine headaches from occurring.

A person should see their doctor if they experience frequent headaches. Frequent headaches may be a sign of an underlying health condition.

If a person experiences a migraine headache for the first time or notices any changes in their frequency, they should see a doctor.

When a person is displaying symptoms of heatstroke, someone with them should contact 911 right away. Symptoms to watch for include:

  • confusion
  • weakness
  • dizziness

In most cases, if a person removes themselves from the heat or drinks more fluids, their headache will go away in time. OTC pain relievers and rest can help alleviate the pain.

People living with migraine should talk to their healthcare provider about treatment strategies. These often focus on both treating the migraine and helping prevent future migraines from occurring.

If heat, sun, or other environmental factors are new triggers, a person should talk to their doctor about additional strategies to prevent future migraine headaches.

A person may develop a heat headache when they experience triggers, such as overheating, dehydration, or other environmental factors. The same factors can also trigger migraine headaches.

When a person takes precautions, such as drinking more liquids and avoiding strenuous exercise in hot conditions, they may prevent the onset of a headache.

If a headache or migraine occurs, a person should drink more fluids, move to a cooler place, and rest from any activity that may be raising their body temperature.