The flu season is at its peak, and more and more people are becoming susceptible to the contagious virus. With this year’s intense new strain, preventing the flu is crucial, especially for those who experience chronic migraine. However, for those who contract the virus, here are some things to keep in mind to understand your headache when dealing with the flu.

Headaches as a Symptom of the Flu

The flu has a myriad of symptoms, including vomiting, nausea, and headaches. While some may not experience headaches, those who do may become sensitive to light, sound and smell. If a headache is the only symptom or persists after other symptoms dissipate, it is likely not due to the flu or cold but a more specific type of headache, such as migraine or tension headaches.  

Headaches that Intensify with the Flu

For some people living with chronic migraine, the flu may intensify an already occurring migraine. The mucous membranes lining the nasal and sinus cavities can become inflamed when infected with the flu virus. This results in increased pressure around the eyes and face, which may lead to a magnified headache. On rare occasions, it might signal an even more serious problem, such as an infection of the brain.

Headaches that Stay After the Flu

Typically, people fully recover from the flu after a week or two with rest and medication. However, lasting symptoms, such as a headache, can indicate serious complications that may require emergency care. If a headache with fever persists, this could be due to a sinus infection. The pain from sinus infections are usually localized in one or more of the sinus areas around the eyes and forehead.


COVID is another viral infection that can cause headache and is often misdiagnosed as flu.  One can get headache with a COVID infection, but even more concerning is that COVID can lead to “new daily persistent headache” which is even more difficult to manage and does not resolve when the infection appears to have resolved.  This is another reason why COVID vaccinations are so important and acute treatment with Paxlovid, in a person where this is appropriate, is important.

Every migraine is different, translating to different causes which can ultimately lead to a serious medical issue. Tracking and taking note of any headache is crucial in determining a clearer cause. Anyone living with migraine, whether as an onset of a virus or by itself, is encouraged to consult with a health care practitioner to discuss their options.