December 2019: A cluster of pneumonia cases emerged in the city of Wuhan.
Further investigation revealed that a newly discovered coronavirus caused the new disease: COVID-19.
The global pandemic has ever since taken a dramatic toll on life and is the defining crisis of the 21st century.
The novel coronavirus has been an issue of distress for multiple reasons and has triggered a Public Health Emergency.
The novelty of the disease leaves us with little information and little further immunity to tackle it. It presents an additional threat with its rampant spread and mutation.
It is constantly evolving to reveal new aspects, thus keeping affairs grim and uncertain.
Symptoms Of COVID
One of the challenging tasks is to differentiate a “COVID symptom” from that of flu or other possible illness.
Multiple studies and research have classified the symptoms of COVID into common and less common.
Common symptoms include fever, chills, fatigue, loss of taste and smell, and respiratory symptoms like cough, sore throat, and shortness of breath.
Lesser common symptoms include neurological (dizziness, seizure, stroke) and gastrointestinal symptoms (abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea), muscle ache, loss of appetite, pink eye, and headache.
The incubation period (time between exposure to virus and onset of symptoms) is, on average is 5-6 days.
Depending on the symptoms, the disease could be mild or severe. There could also be “a-symptomatic cases.”
Furthermore, specific groups are at greater risk of being exposed to the disease. These include people with comorbidities (diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity).
COVID & Headache
Several months into the pandemic, we are still learning about ongoing and new symptoms of COVID-19.
These symptoms, moreover, could be as severe as chest congestion and pain or as common as a cold or a headache.
While COVID-19 was initially categorized as pulmonary disease, intensive and extensive research has directed its neurological impact.
Coronavirus is seen to affect the nervous system, both inside and outside of the brain.
Neurological symptoms include delusion, confusion, and an impaired sense of taste and smell.
Other conditions include brain fog or clouded thinking, frequent dizziness, etc.
It suggests the accelerated mutation that the virus is undergoing and its magnified ability to progress beyond the respiratory tract and affect the brain system.
Headaches as a condition can be classified into “Primary Headaches,” i.e., those that are genetically driven, and Secondary Headaches, which are symptomatic headaches, for example, headaches associated with flu illness.
Thus, the headache associated with COVID-19 shall be classified as a secondary headache. Cases of secondary headache disorders have been reported.
These include cerebrovascular diseases (affect the blood supply to the brain).
COVID-19 has also shown a remarkable ability to induce thrombosis, which pertains to the formation of blood clots in blood vessels.
COVID-19 can also trigger primary headache disorders and make situations worse for the patients. Thus migraine attacks are likely to get worse for COVID patients.
A study conducted in Spain titled “Spectrum of Headaches Associated with SARS-CoV-2 Infection” had detected different phenotypes based on headache features and personal history.
Another study showed that headache patients displayed a lower mortality rate.
According to the World Health Organisation, headache has been categorized under “less common symptoms of COVID-19.”
According to a report released by WHO, 14% of people affected with COVID-19 experience headaches.
Headaches are a common symptom observed across affected patients. Those with or without Pre-existing conditions of headaches could experience it at the onset of the illness.
Headaches could occur either in the Presymptomatic stage, symptomatic, or post-symptomatic stage in COVID-19 patients.
Such headaches are usually characterized as persistent and severe. Moreover, they require treatment using anti-inflammatory drugs instead of the usual paracetamols.
Many studies have hinted at women being more susceptible to developing headaches as a symptom.
Anecdotes reveal that the most common experience of people with headaches is experiencing migraine-like or tension headaches or both.
They could also be localized headaches, acute and intolerable.
When To Seek Help
An important task is to make the proper assessment on whether one should visit a doctor.
Most patients with mild illness can seek treatment at home and recover.
In such cases, it is ideal that patients have a regular consultation with a doctor to discuss progress and any new developments.
In case of development of a persistent headache (occurring more often than usual, worsening over time, and severe intensity), it is advised that the person seeks the doctor’s consultation over call, followed by close monitoring of oneself.
For those with a history of headaches or migraines, consulting a doctor, keeping medication handy, and seeking treatment for the same is ideal.
One should, however, seek immediate consultation if they have one or more Of the following conditions: Breathing difficulties (Dip in oxygen level below 93) and chest pain.
Preventive measures like wearing a mask and distancing could also be of help.
Sometimes, the stress around COVID-19 can trigger anxiety and stress-related headaches.
One should subscribe to keeping the mind free and following a healthy routine to avoid the same.
It is indeed a task to differentiate between symptoms associated with the common flu and the possible manifestation of COVID.
Moreover, neurological conditions could be marginalized and ignored against more severe physical manifestations.
It is essential to organize care in ways that cater to all distress that could manifest the virus.
With vaccination drives being rolled out in various countries, all those eligible should get vaccinated.
Moreover, it is essential to avoid misinformation at such times of distress. Thus, readers should discern the facts by doing thorough research from credible sites and seeking professional advice.
Up to date information can easily be obtained from WHO, US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, and Johns Hopkins University.