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'Is Headache a Symptom of COVID-19?'

By Elizabeth Hanes, BSN, RNJuly 01, 2020

Headache certainly can be a symptom of COVID-19 – but also approximately eleven-million other health conditions. In fact, that’s the problem with trying to diagnose the novel coronavirus based on symptoms alone: no one symptom is definitive for COVID-19. That’s why only a COVID-19 test can say for certain if you’re infected.

The CDC now recognizes 11 symptoms of the novel coronavirus:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

But, again, the problem is that a great many conditions can cause similar symptoms. Influenza, for example, causes fever or chills, coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue, and body aches. So if you come down with those symptoms, should you assume it’s the flu and not COVID-19?


I would say quite the opposite, actually. It’s far wiser to behave as if you do, in fact, have COVID-19 than to assume otherwise. You shouldn’t panic, but you should take steps to preserve your own health and the health of others by:

  • Strictly isolating yourself from other people if you develop any of the symptoms on the list
  • Calling your doctor’s office to report your symptoms and receive a referral for COVID-19 testing, if warranted
  • Wearing a mask and maintaining physical distance from others if you must travel into a public setting for testing

What if you only have a headache, though? Or you only have nausea or diarrhea? Should you assume that’s also caused by the coronavirus?

No. In that case, you can take a wait-and-see approach. A transient headache that clears up within an hour likely is not a symptom of COVID-19. A case of diarrhea by itself, with no other symptoms, likely can be attributed to something you ate or drank.

Still, it’s never a bad idea to distance yourself from other people, including those in your own household, if you experience a weird health symptom that appears on the CDC list. If it turns out the symptom is not caused by the coronavirus, you’ve lost nothing by keeping your distance.

And if it does turn out to be COVID-19, then distancing yourself from others in your household may keep them from coming down with it, too.



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