Posted on Aug 28, 2020, 1 p.m.
One of the first signs of infection with COVID-19 is a headache, but now this is also being recognized as one of the symptoms that can linger long after a person has successfully fought off the virus in a small subset of people.
The persistent headaches can take on several forms, but they are typical bad enough that people seek medical attention for it, according to Dr. Valeriya Klats who is a neurologist and headache specialist with the Hartford HealthCare (HHC) Ayer Institute Headache Center.
“We’re seeing a small subset of people who have prolonged headache symptom long after their acute illness is over,” she said. “This can either be episodic or an all-day, everyday headache. The way we describe this is the new ‘daily persistent headache.’ It’s very bothersome to patients.”
“From the most recently available data, it is estimated that headache is a symptom in about 13 percent of patients with COVID-19,” said Dr. Sandhya Mehla, who has been studying the incidence and is also a specialist with the HHC Headache Center. “It is the fifth-most common COVID-19 symptom after fever, cough, muscle aches and trouble breathing.”
“What we see anecdotally is that people describe symptoms that are of a migraine-type headache, a tension-type headache or combination of both. We’re treating it as a secondary condition – a headache due to viral illness – and then based on the symptomotology that the patients describe,” said Klats, who also said that more research is required to find the best way to characterize headaches caused by the virus.
Both doctors suggest that anyone who is experiencing a sudden onset of a severe headache to seek evaluation as soon as possible as it may be a symptom of COVID-19, especially if there are other telling symptoms as well such as aches, fever, and loss of taste and/or smell.
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