Causes of Fever, Headache and Dry Cough

Fever is a common symptom in a variety of health ailments, but treatment is indicated when fever is accompanied by additional symptoms such as headache and cough. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, recognizing the different symptoms can help in obtaining the appropriate remedies and treatment. The most frequent causes of the fever, headache and cough combination include the common cold and influenza. These symptoms also appear in more serious conditions such as pneumonia, meningitis and gastrointestinal problems.

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Cold and Flu

A cold is different from the flu, although the symptoms can often appear very similar. Cold symptoms appear gradually and include a fever up to 102 degrees F, headache and cough. Cold symptoms may also involve muscle aches, sore throat and fatigue. The flu differs in onset, coming on suddenly. A flu fever may exceed 102 degrees F, and have additional symptoms such as chills, sweating and loss of appetite. In both cases, myriad types of viruses cause the symptoms and onset of the infection.


Inflammation of the lungs due to infection from bacteria, viruses or parasites can cause pneumonia. The Mayo Clinic notes that pneumonia can become a serious condition requiring medical treatment 2. Pneumonia often appears like the flu due to cough, fever and headache symptoms. However, additional symptoms that indicate pneumonia include shortness of breath, chest pain and shaking chills. In older adults, a lower than normal temperature instead of fever can accompany this condition.


An inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord caused by a viral or bacterial infection signifies meningitis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that there is a difference in bacterial versus viral meningitis 1. In either condition, treatment is necessary to manage symptoms and prevent severe damage to the body. Symptoms associated with this condition include high fever, headache and stiff neck, as well as nausea, confusion and sleepiness.

Viral Gastroenteritis

Viral gastroenteritis is caused by a variety of virus strains that cause an infection in the intestines. This is a contagious condition, and the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse reports that it is the second most common illness in the United States. In addition to fever and headache, symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Most people recover from this condition without complication, but viral gastroenteritis can be serious in children and the elderly due to compromised immune systems.