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Nicotine headaches - what causes it - how to treat it


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Have you ever noticed that you easily get headaches after smoking, vaping or using nicotine replacement therapy such as gum or patches? 

It may well be that you are suffering from nicotine headaches. 

Nicotine is a highly addictive stimulant that is found in tobacco, nicotine vape liquid and nicotine replacement therapy products. This is a stimulant that has been linked to headaches. 

In this article, we look at the causes behind nicotine headaches, how to treat it and a few ideas for how you might prevent them in the future.

Why does nicotine give me headaches?

There are a few reasons why nicotine may be linked to headaches. Here are 5 reasons why nicotine headaches can happen. 

  1. Nicotine may reduce the effects of painkillers. If you are taking painkillers because you have a headache and then continue to use your nicotine products alongside them, you may notice your headache is harder to shift. 
  2. This stimulant may reduce the blood flow to your brain as nicotine can cause blood vessels to reduce its diameter so that less oxygen flows into the
  3. Chemicals found in tobacco smoke, as well as nicotine, could increase sensitivity to pain and are toxic to neurons. 
  4. You have significantly reduced your nicotine intake too soon and are suffering from a nicotine withdrawal headache rather than a nicotine headache. You might want to consider gradually weaning yourself off nicotine to help with this withdrawal symptom.
  5. You are vaping or smoking a stronger nicotine dose to what you are used to. You can find liquids from 3mg right up to 20mg salt. If you are new to vaping and unsure on your dose, start low and see how you go. 

How do you get rid of nicotine headaches?

Nicotine headaches can feel just as awful as any other headache. It could cause a cluster headache or even a migraine. 

Chances are, you want to get rid of your nicotine headache - fast! 

Here’s what we find helps when we have a nicotine headache attack. 

  1. Drink water - make sure you are staying hydrated as dehydration can cause your headache to worsen. 
  2. Take painkillers - if you decide to take pain killers remember that using nicotine alongside them may cause them not to be as effective. 
  3. Relax - if you feel a nicotine headache starting then sit down and relax. Close your eyes if you can, take some deep breaths. 
  4. Cold compress - place a cold compress on your forehead to help ease nicotine headaches.

What are the other side effects of nicotine?

Nicotine headaches are one thing, but there are also other side effects of this stimulant to watch out for. While it may give you a rush and release those feel good neurotransmitters, it can also have other, less desired effects.

You may be more prone to these side effects if you are new to nicotine, are using it on an empty stomach or with alcohol or if you are taking a high dose that is more than you are used to.

Other side effects of nicotine include:

  • Racing or irregular heartbeat 
  • Lightheaded and dizzy
  • Irritable 
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Jittery or anxious
  • Nausea 
  • Stomach ache

What should I do to avoid nicotine headaches?

If you are someone prone to nicotine headaches, then you may look to reduce your nicotine dose down. If you are using vapables then you can reduce as low as 3mg. 

Make sure you are drinking plenty of water while you are vaping or smoking to keep hydrated and further avoid the risk of a headache. 

“However, it is valuable to remember that nicotine is a harmful substance as mentioned above and in the long term it can have many consequences. In this section we talk about the headache that can be caused by nicotine because of its toxic and pathophysiological effects. The medical recommendation before any headache, first would be to stop smoking and secondly to go to a medical consultation because this pain may be being caused by more serious causes. Another aspect is that before smoking, it is best not to self-medicate because it can aggravate the problem.”

Becky Spencer-Davies

I'm a writer, runner and biscuit lover. When I'm not writing about pens, pods, mods, coils and juices, you'll find me running in the hills fueled by cookies.

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