Some types of headache are accompanied by nausea, which is the feeling of needing to vomit. Migraines are the most common cause of both a headache and nausea.

Other common causes include:

In this article, we explore the common causes of both headaches and nausea, as well as some underlying issues that are less common and more serious. We also discuss treatments and ways to prevent the symptoms.


headache and nausea
A headache accompanied by nausea is a common symptom of a migraine.

Headaches are very common, and most people will experience one from time to time. Nausea sometimes accompanies a headache, and a number of health issues can cause this.

Migraines represent the most common cause of both symptoms. According to a 2015 review, around 1 in 7 people in United States experience migraines every year.

A migraine feels like a moderate or severe headache. The pain is often throbbing and located on one side of the head. During a migraine, a person may also experience:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • sensitivity to light or sound

Common causes

Beyond migraines, common causes of both headaches and nausea include:

Another common cause of a headache and nausea is low blood sugar, which can result from:

  • not eating enough
  • overuse of diabetes medications
  • liver or kidney disease
  • hormonal deficiencies
  • drinking alcohol in excess
  • certain medications

Other causes of concurrent headaches and nausea are more severe and may require urgent medical treatment. Understanding the full range of causes is essential, as it can enable a person to seek the right treatment in time.

More serious causes

Headaches and nausea are symptoms of the following severe conditions and injuries:

Why do migraines cause nausea?

headache and nausea causes sleep issues
Lying in a dark, quiet room can help reduce migraine symptoms.

According to the findings of a 2013 review, over 60 percent of people with migraines also experience nausea and vomiting. However, the medical community is still unsure why migraines can cause nausea.

One explanation is that migraines affect nerve pathways that stimulate the part of the brain that controls vomiting. A 2014 study found that people experiencing migraines with nausea showed activity in the rostral dorsal medullary area of the brain, which likely controls nausea.

Another theory relates to serotonin, a chemical in the brain that affects:

  • nausea
  • mood
  • social behavior
  • appetite
  • digestion
  • memory
  • sex drive

According to a 2012 review, people with migraines sometimes have reduced serotonin levels, which may also lead to nausea.


Treatment for headaches and nausea depends on the cause. If the cause is a migraine, the following may help:

  • taking pain-relieving medication
  • lying in a quiet, dark room
  • laying a warm cloth on the forehead
  • putting a cold compress on the back of the neck
  • trying complementary treatments, such as aromatherapy or acupuncture
  • taking anti-nausea medication
  • getting fresh air
  • sticking to bland foods and small portions

When to see a doctor

headache and nausea from a migraine can require medical treatment
Anyone who has persistent headaches should see a doctor.

If a person has a severe, sudden headache and no history of migraines, they should speak with a doctor.

See a doctor right away if a headache and nausea follow a blow to the head.

Also, seek medical attention if headaches grow worse over time or accompany any of the following symptoms:

  • loss of consciousness
  • blurred vision
  • a fever
  • trouble speaking
  • feeling dizzy or confused
  • having a stiff neck
  • vomiting that occurs sporadically for more than 1 day
  • not urinating for more than 8 hours


It may not always be possible to prevent headaches and nausea. However, the following may help:

  • stopping smoking
  • reducing caffeine and alcohol intakes
  • reducing the effects of stress through mindfulness, meditation, or yoga
  • drinking plenty of water
  • avoiding foods that have previously triggered a migraine
  • eating a healthful, balanced diet
  • practicing good hygiene to avoid colds, the flu, or the stomach flu
  • taking plenty of breaks from looking at screens
  • getting enough exercise


Migraines are the most common cause of headaches that occur with nausea. Dehydration and low blood sugar are also frequently responsible.

Some causes are more serious. Several affect the brain, such as meningitis, brain aneurysms, and tumors. These issues typically feature additional symptoms.

Anyone who is worried or unsure about the cause of their headaches and nausea should speak with a doctor.