With so much conflicting information out there about the safety and effectiveness of the different types of COVID-19 vaccines, we get why anyone would be a little worried. But for migraine sufferers, there’s an extra risk—that trying to do the right thing for your health will land you in bed with a pounding head for a few hours (or a few days).
To get the facts about the relationship between migraine and the COVID-19 vaccines, we turned to neurologist and migraine expert Dr. Cristina Wohlgehagen, MD. Here’s what she had to say.
Do any of the COVID-19 vaccines cause migraine attacks?
In general, headache is one of the reported side effects from all of the COVID-19 vaccines. And keep in mind that COVID-19 itself can cause headaches.
As far as triggering a migraine attack, it’s hard to pinpoint cause and effect without evidence-based studies. Early reports suggest that the threshold for a migraine attack may be lower for migraine sufferers in the days after a vaccination, meaning getting a vaccine can make an attack more likely.
This isn’t unique to the COVID-19 vaccines, though—common vaccinations like the flu shot can also potentially cause migraine attacks.
What other side effects can COVID-19 vaccines potentially cause?
This will differ based on the specific type of vaccine, but commonly reported side effects include injection site pain, fatigue, myalgia (muscle pain), chills, and fever.
Typically, these effects can last anywhere from 24-72 hours before going away.
I’ve read that COVID-19 can cause long-term headaches. Does that mean the vaccine causes that too?
Probably not—vaccine-associated headaches usually go away within a few days, but the headaches that can come on after COVID-19 infection last a lot longer, from weeks to months.
[Curious about the science behind this? Check out our guide to the relationship between COVID-19, headaches, and migraine.]
Can getting a COVID-19 vaccine interfere with any migraine treatments (such as Botox®)?
Nope! It’s highly unlikely that getting a vaccine will impact the effectiveness of any migraine treatments, even injections like Botox®.
Should I take additional medication before getting a COVID-19 vaccine to make sure I don’t get a migraine?
If you’re already taking preventive medication for migraine, you should stick to your treatment regimen. If you’re not, you could consider trying what’s known as a “bridge” treatment, which helps migraine sufferers get through periods when they can’t avoid a known trigger.
Bridge treatment starts the night before exposure to the known trigger (in this case, vaccination) and lasts until a few days after to compensate for the increased risk of an attack.
If I get a migraine attack after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, how should I treat it? Will any medications affect the vaccine?
Let your healthcare provider know before you take the vaccination, so that you can work out a bridge plan if needed. If you get a migraine attack, you can typically treat it using your usual regimen. Typical migraine medications should not affect the vaccine.
To sum all this up, it’s reasonable to worry that getting a vaccine might give you an attack—that’s a real (and really inconvenient) possibility. But when you compare that to the risk of coming down with COVID-19, the choice is a no-brainer: Your long-term health is what’s most important.
And now that you know how to prepare for your vaccine to lessen your chances of getting hit with a migraine, you’re ready to get your shots, ditch your mask, and finally move on with your life.
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely upon the content provided in this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.
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