Do You Really Need to Take Sick Leave for Migraine?

By Medically reviewed by Hello Doktor Medical Panel

More often than not, our colleagues disregard migraines as “just another excuse to take sick leave”. And though this comment may be cynical in nature, do our colleagues actually have a point? Read on to discover about what really happens when you suffer a migraine.

Aren’t Migraines and Headaches the Same Thing? 

Before devising our own theories, let’s get to know first what a migraine really is. Headaches, in general can be categorised into 2 individual types, which are primary and secondary. And migraines are, in fact, a branch of primary headaches. There are no known causes for primary headaches, but it could be caused by a sensitivity to light, whereas secondary headaches are caused by diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and trauma to parts of the head.

Primary headaches, specifically, can be divided into 3 types, which include tension, migraine and cluster headaches. In terms of characteristics, these headaches can be differentiated through the variance in pain levels experienced. On average, 1 out of 7 individuals suffer a migraine. And although a migraine is not life-threatening, it can affect your daily routine significantly, particularly hampering work performance.

Additionally, it could be a symptom of something bigger such as trauma to the head, meningitis or an infection to the brain itself. Therefore, do not make the mistake of brushing off headaches or migraines as something that is not a cause for concern. 

Do You Really Need an MC?

So, if a migraine is just a type of headache, do you really need to take sick leave? Well, that depends on each individual. However, when suffering a migraine, a person will usually suffer from other symptoms as well, limiting their ability to work or perform daily activities. These symptoms include:  

  1. Vomiting
  2. Sensitivity towards light and sound
  3. Loss of appetite
  4. Fatigue
  5. Paleness

Additionally, headaches and migraines can usually point towards a more serious condition. If you are also experiencing other symptoms such as neck stiffness, rashes, fever, cough and confusion, seek medical attention immediately to get diagnosed through a physical examination. 

For those who are at work, their productivity levels could decrease, and this condition could worsen, especially if the primary cause of the headache is due to the nature of their work. Therefore, the provision of a medical certificate (MC) to those who are clinically certified to be suffering from a migraine aims to give the individual much-needed time to rest and recover within a stress-free environment.


It is solely a doctor’s prerogative during diagnosis to determine if a patient is indeed suffering from a migraine, and thereafter issuing an MC. The issue, however, lies in the fact that the “having a migraine” excuse is used arbitrarily by some to obtain sick leave, just because they do not feel like showing up to work. We suppose migraines should be treated the same as all sick leave-warranting illnesses, which come with an obligation of trust from employees. 

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Review Date: October 23, 2019 | Last Modified: December 5, 2019

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