Headaches are a common side effect of the COVID-19 vaccination. Migraine, a condition that can cause severe, recurring headaches associated with nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound, can be a common headache after COVID-19 vaccination.

The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and can protect an individual from complications of COVID-19, as well as helping to protect the wider community. Some people notice several mild, temporary side effects after receiving their vaccination. These side effects are common signs of the immune system mounting its defenses against the coronavirus infection.

Headaches are a common side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine. Some people with migraine may experience a temporary worsening of the condition after receiving the vaccine. A person can ensure they are well hydrated before vaccination to improve wellbeing.

Keep reading to learn about the link between COVID-19 vaccines and migraine headaches.

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Rigorous testing and strict protective measures have ensured that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective. However, any form of medication can have side effects, including vaccines.

Headaches are a common side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine. Data from the ZOE COVID Study suggest that around 10% of people experience headaches or tiredness after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. They also state that 25–42% of people in the original Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine trial experienced headaches.

A migraine is an intense pulsing or throbbing pain in the head that lasts up to 72 hours without treatment. Other symptoms can also occur, including nausea and sensitivity to light.

Learn the difference between migraine and a headache here.

Although there has been little research in this area, people who experience migraine headaches could experience one after the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that around 1% of people aged 18–55 experienced a severe headache following the first Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine dose and 3% after the second.

Migraine headaches can be painful and debilitating, but the symptoms should pass. The American Migraine Foundation states that COVID-19 can be life threatening to people living with migraine headaches and poses a greater risk than getting the vaccine.

Learn about migraine as a symptom of COVID-19 here.

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All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information may be out of date. Visit our coronavirus hub for the most recent information on COVID-19.

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Some common triggers for people experiencing migraines include:

  • stress
  • biological changes, such as hormonal changes
  • tiredness
  • strong or flashing lights
  • changes in the weather
  • certain foods and drinks

The triggers of migraine episodes will vary from person to person. Identifying the factors that cause migraine headaches is an important step to preventing them. Using a diary to record the context of each episode can help people to identify possible triggers.

Read more about migraine triggers here.

According to the CDC, the COVID-19 vaccination can cause side effects that include:

These side effects should go away on their own within a couple of days. In very rare cases, the COVID-19 vaccine can also cause more serious reactions in some people. For example, it could cause a severe allergic reaction, such as anaphylaxis. This can occur in people who are allergic to a substance in the vaccine.

The COVID-19 vaccine typically causes side effects that occur within 24 hours of the injection. Around 72% of people report pain, redness, or swelling around the injection site after the first dose and 69% after the second. This side effect can occur immediately after vaccination.

People may experience other symptoms after a few hours, such as tiredness and fever. People can experience these symptoms with different onsets and durations. However, data from the ZOE COVID Study suggest that symptoms typically peak within 24 hours of vaccination and last up to 48 hours in total.

The CDC also states that symptoms are typically more intense after the second vaccine dose than the first.

Learn about how COVID-19 may progress here.

The Foods and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Janssen COVID-19 vaccines in the United States. Each type of vaccine is safe and effective at preventing COVID-19, severe illness, and death from the new coronavirus.

The lack of research into links between COVID-19 vaccines and migraine makes it unclear whether specific types of vaccines are more likely to cause a migraine headache. Headaches are a common side effect of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Janssen vaccines.

Stress is a common trigger for episodes in people living with migraine headaches. Getting vaccinated could be stressful for some people, which may trigger a migraine headache regardless of the vaccine type.

A guide to different COVID-19 vaccines

There is no cure for migraine headaches, but treatments aim to prevent episodes or reduce symptoms during episodes. Some doctors may recommend erenumab for preventing migraine headaches.

Medications to treat other conditions can also help people with migraine headaches, such as epilepsy drugs. People with chronic migraine headaches may also have Botox to treat the condition. Identifying and avoiding triggers is another method of managing chronic migraine headaches.

Learn 15 natural and home remedies for migraine relief here.

Will migraine medication interfere with the COVID-19 vaccine?

The American Migraine Foundation states that there is currently no evidence migraine medication will interfere with the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine. They also recommend against taking over-the-counter medications before the vaccination to help prevent side effects, such as ibuprofen.

Many types of migraine headaches can cause different symptoms. Some common migraine headache symptoms people experience include:

  • moderate to severe head pain on one or both sides of their head
  • throbbing, pounding, or pulsating head pain
  • pain that worsens with movement
  • nausea and vomiting
  • sensitivity to light, sounds, or smells
  • difficulty concentrating or performing daily tasks
  • aura, which is a collection of visual disturbances that can occur before an episode

Learn about different types of headaches here.

All vaccines can cause side effects. These are typically a sign of the immune system building up its defenses against potential infection. The side effects across different vaccines can be similar.

For example, headaches are a common side effect of the flu vaccine. The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine can also cause headaches. These side effects could induce an episode in people who experience chronic migraine headaches.

Learn what vaccines are and how they work here.

The COVID-19 vaccine can cause mild, temporary symptoms, including headaches. Some people may experience a migraine headache following the vaccine. However, other side effects are more common, such as pain at the injection site.

People who have a history of migraine can experience an episode after the vaccine. However, the risks of COVID-19 can be life-threatening; therefore, the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks of these side effects.