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Can Migraines Cause Fever? Explanation & Tips

Under: Migraine & Headache

Have you ever wondered if migraines cause fever? While migraines typically feature a broad array of symptoms (in addition to a splitting headache), including nausea and vomiting, vision changes, and loss of spatial awareness, high body temperature is not typically one of them.

Still, some migraineurs report intermittent bouts of fever during attacks. Here’s what you need to know about the link between migraines and fever, and what to do if you find yourself in the unfortunate position of experiencing both at the same time.

What is a fever?

Simply put, a fever happens when your internal body temperature rises above its normal levels. Temperature is considered elevated when it’s higher than 100.4 F (38 C) as measured by an oral thermometer or higher than 100.8 F per a rectal thermometer.

Fever is not an illness in and of itself. Rather, it’s usually a sign or symptom that something else, like an infection, is going on in the body. In fact, sometimes, a fever is part of your body’s immune response against harmful pathogens and not necessarily a bad thing to have.

When your system is under attack, your body can elevate its temperature to kick your immune system into high gear, triggering a wealth of bug-squashing cellular mechanisms. Warmer temperatures also mean less room for growth for viruses and bacteria, some of which can only reproduce at normal body temperatures.


Can Migraines Cause Fever


Could migraines cause fever?

Fever during a migraine attack is rare. Experts believe that a fever accompanying a migraine headache is typically caused by another factor, like an illness or an infection, that’s occurring simultaneously with the attack. It’s also been theorized that the hypothalamus, which houses your body’s internal thermostat and is sometimes involved in cluster headaches, could play some sort of role, but more research is definitely needed.

Because your body is used to functioning at a very specific temperature range — around 97 to 99 F — rises in temperature can precipitate systemic changes that may trigger a migraine in sensitive people. For instance, high fevers can trigger lots of sweating as your body attempts to cool itself down. And when you lose fluids quicker than you take in, you may become dehydrated. Dehydration is one of the most common migraine triggers in both children and adults.

Conditions that may cause fever and migraine

If you have a predisposition to migraines, any illness or infection that causes a fever could potentially trigger one. But it’s also important to keep in mind that, since fever during migraine attacks is considered rare, it could be a sign of a more serious or life-threatening condition. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience a high fever accompanied by a severe migraine or migraine symptoms, or if the fever continues for longer than 3 days.

Some conditions that could trigger a migraine with fever include:

Common viral infections

Viruses like influenza (flu) and COVID-19, among others, may give you a fever and worsen migraines or headaches. If you have a viral infection, you may experience other symptoms, like:

  • Sore throat
  • Sinus pain
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Runny nose

Serious infections

Meningitis and encephalitis are severe and potentially life-threatening infections that affect the brain. They can be caused by viral or bacterial pathogens. Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain, also known as meninges. Encephalitis occurs when the brain itself is inflamed. Both conditions may trigger a fever and cause severe head pain.

Symptoms of meningitis include:

  • Stiff neck
  • Cold hands and feet
  • High fever
  • Labored breathing
  • Seizures
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Skin rash
  • Sensitivity to light

Encephalitis symptoms may include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Vision changes
  • Paralysis or stupor
  • Weakness
  • Joint pain
  • Drowsiness
  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Loss of consciousness

Encephalitis and meningitis are both potentially life-threatening conditions. Seek emergency medical attention right away if you think you may have any of these infections, particularly if you are experiencing a severe headache and fever accompanied by neck stiffness, weakness, disorientation, or difficulty hearing or speaking.

Bacterial infections

Bacterial infections happen when a microscopic single-cell microorganism, known as bacteria, enters the body either through an airway (like your nose or mouth) or via an opening in your skin, like a cut, scrape, or surgical wound. These infections can range from mild, like an ear infection or strep throat, to more serious conditions like tuberculosis.

There are many types of bacterial infections and their severity largely depends on the type of microorganism involved. In general terms, symptoms of bacterial infections may include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Localized pain

A final word

Although fever is not a hallmark symptom of migraine headaches, it’s entirely possible to get one during an attack, especially if there’s an underlying condition, like a viral or bacterial infection, that’s triggering the fever.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • A 103 F temperature or higher
  • A sudden or severe headache
  • Neck stiffness or neck pain
  • Fainting or seizures
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A skin rash or spots
  • Confusion or brain fog

So if you’re wondering about the possibility that migraines cause fever – it’s not very likely. Make sure there’s nothing else going on.


Read more about migraines and useful tips to help avoid them