For some patients suffering from COVID-19, the headaches in their skulls are so severe that they think of going to an emergency room.

For some, it could appear in a pulsing wave or be a minor ache. It can disappear within minutes of using painkillers or remain present months later.

“My head was like it was going to explode, and the medication I was taking was not enough to alleviate the symptoms,” said Ananda Pires who became ill at the end of December.

After two days of being she was barely able leave her mattress in bed, this Guelph, Ont., woman claimed that her headache had generally disappeared, with only some discomfort and sensitivity to light during the days following.

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Although loss of smell as well as dry cough and fever might be the more well-known signs of COVID-19, headaches are an everyday occurrence, too. In the second year of the epidemic the medical community and patients are starting to realize that for certain people patients, headache may be the most serious symptoms -and it is one that remains even after other symptoms have gone.

That’s the reason why there’s been an research effort by scientists and institutions, including those at the U.S. National Institutes of Health to research the unexplored long-term neurological symptoms that are reported by some COVID-19 patients. These symptoms can include headaches, inflammation in the brain and the damage to blood vessels in the brain.

While some people’s headaches fade with the disease, some patients aren’t able to shake them off — even after all their other COVID symptoms have gone.

Certain people suffering from COVID headaches experience relief by taking prescription painkillers. Others report that medications didn’t ease the discomfort. (Ryan Remiorz and The Canadian Press)

Doctor. Nili Kaplan-Myrth tested positive for COVID at the beginning of April. The Ottawa family doctor is in good enough health to see patients, however, she suffers from an unending headache is described by her as “like the sensation of a vise.”

“It’s as if you’re wearing a hat that’s way too tiny,” Kaplan-Myrth told CBC News. “It’s a constant, dull hurt that’s never gone away.”

The experience of Scott Schmidt, the COVID headache “was similar to living in water for a few weeks” with continuous pressure in his eyes.

“I was thinking I could not get rid of this headache for the rest of my life of me. I grew accustomed to it. I just went about my daily life suffering from headaches,” Schmidt, a journalist from Medicine Hat, Alta. Schmidt, who lives in Medicine Hat, Alta.

“Just a headache” -or is this COVID?

Headaches are common in viral infections, such as influenza and colds. They’re often the first signs of COVID-19. This, doctors have observed, may be difficult for patients to tell whether it’s a simple headache, or the sign of an illness that is developing.

Doctor. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist from Mississauga, Ont., has seen patients arrive in emergency rooms suffering from an intense headache, only to find themselves negative for COVID.

Others might ignore the slight headache, but not know they’re suffering.

A headache could be an early indication of an COVID disease. Specialist in infectious diseases Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti says it’s worthwhile to conduct a quick test like this one that was photographed in Vancouver on April 10 when there was a high rate of community transmission. (David Horemans/CBC)

“So many people will inform you”You know that? It was just bizarre, I was suffering from a small amount of headache, a of sore throat. I was thinking I had consumed too amount of wine, however I was sure.'”

Chakrabarti suggested that if someone experiences an acute headache in the middle of a growing COVID outbreak It’s worth taking the time to run a quick test.

He also explains that a sudden, intense headache may also be an indication of medical emergencies for example, a brainbleed or stroke, or meningitis with a virus — some signs of which are identical to the symptoms of COVID.

“If you’re suffering from a severe headache and fever, it’s an excellent idea to visit the emergency room. If you’re experiencing a serious nausea that doesn’t end, go to the emergency room too.”

Headaches that won’t stop.

For some suffering from migraines, the pain will not disappear — even after they’ve been cleared of infection. The reason for this isn’t fully known.

“There are many possibilities right now and I don’t believe we’ve got a clear idea on it,” says Dr. Jennifer Frontera, a neurology professor at NYU’s Grossman School of Medicine who studies post-COVID disorders.

One of the possibilities She says that some of them could be complications of severe COVID and autoimmune disorders high blood pressure that affects the blood vessels of the brain, or the stress of pandemics that causes tension headaches.

With the variety of possible reasons, she suggests, “it’s worth going to the doctor and finding out what treatment options are available.”

The positive side is that the majority of long COVID patients can be treated with existing treatments for migraines and headaches doctor. Angela Cheung, a long COVID researcher at Toronto’s University Health Network.

Doctor. Angela Cheung, a senior scientist-clinician at Toronto’s University Health Network, is investigating the impact of long COVID. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

These treatments may consist of prescription drugs or massage therapy according to the diagnosis.

Cheung reminds patients who are depressed about their chronic COVID symptoms, that “it does not mean you’ll have this for the rest of your life.”

Her suggestion: “Trying to deal with your current issues by taking one step at a since we’re learning each day about COVID.”

Headaches, and another infection

Although Kaplan-Myrth continues to struggle with her headaches every day However, the Ottawa doctor also has a issue: If she becomes again infected is the headache likely to return?

“The anxiety that I might be diagnosed with COVID and have to go through it again especially if I’m not back to the baseline that it is, is as I’m not sure I’m able to cope,” she said.

It’s a worry which is also shared by Schmidt who suffers from COVID. His headache eventually went away after three weeks.

“Now I live with the tiniest piece of anxiety … In the past I was careful because I’m attentive and I was told to be cautious,” she said. “Now I’m taking care as I’m realizing that I’m worried about myself.”