What are Headaches in Children? Headaches are common in both children and adults, but they can be particularly alarming for parents when their child experiences them. In most cases, headaches are caused by benign factors such as stress, allergies, or dehydration. However, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of more serious causes of headaches in children, such as tumors or infections. By understanding the potential causes of your child’s headaches, you can better seek appropriate treatment if necessary.
Most parents wouldn’t even think about their child having a headache unless it’s brought to their attention by the child themselves. And even then, most parents would likely just give their child an over-the-counter medication and call it a day. But headaches in children can be more serious than just a minor inconvenience. In some cases, they can be a sign of something more serious going on with the child’s health. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some of the symptoms and causes of headaches in children. We’ll also discuss how to properly treat them when they do occur. So read on for all you need to know about headaches in children.
- Overview about Headaches in Children:
- What’s a headache?
- How common are headaches in children?
- Which children are more likely to get headaches?
- How do headaches affect my child’s brain? Will they damage my child’s brain?
- How are headaches in children different from headaches in adults?
- Symptoms And Causes:
- Diagnosis And Tests:
- Management And Treatment:
- FAQs of Headaches in Children:
- A note from The Health Talks:
Overview about Headaches in Children:
What’s a headache?
A headache is one of the most common ailments that both children and adults experience. There are more than 150 types of headaches, which are typically divided into four categories: migraines, tension headaches, mixed headache syndrome/chronic migraine/transformed migraine, and traction or inflammatory headaches.
Migraines are the most common type of headache in children, affecting 25% of younger children and 75% of adolescents. Migraines are also one of the top five most common diseases in children. Symptoms of a migraine may include throbbing pain, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound.
If your child is experiencing a headache, it is important to understand the different types in order to best treat the pain. Here are four of the most common types of headaches:
There are a few things you should know about migraines if you or your child suffers from them. First, migraines are episodic, which means they occur a few times a month. Second, migraines are severe headaches where your child experiences sensitivity to light and noise followed by nausea and vomiting. Finally, migraines can be hereditary.
About 60% of people who have migraines also have an immediate family member (mother, father, sister, and/or brother) who has them. If you or your child suffers from migraines, there are some things you can do to help manage the condition.
First, avoid trigger foods and beverages. Common triggers include caffeine, chocolate, cheese, and red wine. Second, get plenty of rest and exercise regularly. Exercise can help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. Finally, see a doctor if your migraines are severe or occur more than a few times a month. If you follow these tips, you can help manage your migraines and reduce their impact on your life.
There are four types of tension headaches: episodic, chronic, daily, and chronic non-progressive.
- Episodic tension headaches are the most common type of headache, and they affect more women than men. These headaches typically last for 30 minutes to several hours, and they occur less than 15 days per month.
- Chronic tension headaches are less common, but can last for longer than 15 days per month. These headaches may be caused by underlying health conditions, such as depression or anxiety. Treatment for chronic tension headaches may require prescription medications.
- Daily tension headaches are the least common type of tension headache, but can be the most debilitating. These headaches can occur every day, and may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as nausea or dizziness. Treatment for daily tension headaches often includes a combination of medication and therapy.
- Chronic non-progressive headaches are a type of headache that may occur daily or a few times a month, but does not include the extra symptoms of a migraine. These headaches are often treated with over-the-counter pain medications. If the headaches are severe or persistent, however, prescription medications may be necessary.
Mixed headache syndrome/chronic migraine/transformed migraine:
Mixed headache syndrome, also known as chronic migraine or transformed migraine, is a type of headache that is a combination of a migraine and chronic non-progressive tension headache. If your child has headaches more than 15 days a month with migraine symptoms, they might have this type of headache.
Traction and inflammatory headaches:
Traction and inflammatory headaches are two of the most common types of headaches in children. These headaches may be due to an illness or brain disorder your child has. There could possibly be a brain tumor or bleeding in their brain. Treatment for these types of headaches usually involves medications and sometimes surgery. If you think your child may have a traction or inflammatory headache, it is important to see a doctor right away.
How common are headaches in children?
Headaches are extremely common in children. In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 20% of children between the ages of 5 and 17 experience headaches. The most common types of headaches in this age group are tension headaches and migraines, which account for 15% and 5% of all headaches respectively.
Despite the frequency of headaches in children, many parents worry that their child’s headache is indicative of a more serious medical condition, like a brain tumor. However, less than 3% of all headaches are actually caused by underlying medical conditions. In most cases, headaches in children are simply the result of stress or lifestyle issues.
Which children are more likely to get headaches?
If your child has an immediate family member who gets headaches, that puts them at a higher risk. Children with high-stress levels are also more likely to suffer from headaches. Headaches can be a very debilitating condition, so it’s important to be aware of the possible causes. If you think your child may be at risk, talk to their doctor about ways to help prevent or lessen the severity of headaches.
How do headaches affect my child’s brain? Will they damage my child’s brain?
Headaches are a common occurrence for both children and adults. While they can be painful and disruptive, it is important to remember that headaches will not cause brain damage. In fact, research has shown that headaches do not have any negative effect on cognitive function or brain structure. So, if your child is experiencing occasional headaches, there is no need to worry about their long-term impact on their brain health.
How are headaches in children different from headaches in adults?
There are some key ways in which headaches experienced by children differ from those suffered by adults:
- For one, children’s headaches often don’t last as long – they may only last for a few hours, as opposed to days or even weeks in some cases.
- Additionally, the pain from a headache is usually felt all over the head in children, rather than being localized to one side or section.
- Finally, children often have more stomach-related complaints associated with their headaches, such as abdominal pain, vomiting and nausea.
While all of these symptoms can be very unpleasant, it’s important to remember that most childhood headaches are benign and will resolve on their own. However, if your child is experiencing severe or persistent headaches, it’s always best to consult with a medical professional to rule out any underlying causes.
Symptoms And Causes:
What are the symptoms of headaches in children?
There are different types of headaches, and the symptoms vary depending on the type:
Acute headaches can be extremely painful and debilitating. The pain is often sharp and throbbing, and can affect the head, neck or face. If your child are experiencing acute headache symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent the condition from becoming worse.
Acute recurrent headaches or migraines:
Acute recurrent headaches, also known as migraines, are a type of headache that typically lasts from one to two hours and usually occurs two to four times per month:
- Pain that affects the front of their head, or both sides.
- Pale skin color (pallor).
- Upset stomach, nausea and vomiting.
- Sensitivity to light, noise or smells.
- Blurred vision.
- Desire to sleep more than usual.
Chronic nonprogressive headaches or tension headaches:
Chronic nonprogressive headaches, also known as tension headaches, are daily or frequent headaches that come and go over a prolonged period of time without causing neurological symptoms. If chronic nonprogressive headaches occur more than 15 days per month along with frequent school absences and medication overuse, it is important to see a headache specialist.
Symptoms of chronic nonprogressive headaches include an ache or pressure in a “band” across the forehead. While chronic nonprogressive headaches are not usually serious, they can be disruptive to everyday life. If you suspect you may have chronic nonprogressive headaches, talk to your doctor about treatment options.
Chronic progressive headaches:
Chronic progressive headaches are characterized by a gradual increase in both the frequency and severity of headaches. In some cases, chronic progressive headaches may be accompanied by other neurological symptoms, such as weakness, balance problems, and visual disturbances.
These additional symptoms can indicate the presence of underlying brain conditions, such as hydrocephalus (an abnormal build-up of fluid in the brain), inflammation of the brain, or a brain tumor. If you are experiencing chronic progressive headaches, it is important to consult with a medical professional in order to rule out any potentially serious underlying causes.
What causes headaches in children?
The many causes for headaches in children are wide-ranging and can include anything from:
- Simple illnesses like the flu, an infection or a fever.
- Sinus infection.
- Sore throat.
- Ear infections.
- Head trauma.
- Exercising too much (happens to athletes, for example).
- Meningitis (infection or inflammation of the membrane that covers their brain and spinal cord), which is rare.
- Encephalitis (inflammation of their brain), which is rare.
- Hemorrhage (bleeding in their brain), which is rare.
- Tumor (a mass of abnormal tissue), which is also rare.
Are headaches a sign that my child has juvenile diabetes?
If your child is complaining of headaches, it’s important to pay attention. While a headache isn’t a usual symptom of diabetes, it can indicate that your child’s blood sugar is low, which itself is a symptom of diabetes. If you suspect that your child may have juvenile diabetes, it’s important to take them to the doctor for testing as soon as possible. With proper treatment and management, children with juvenile diabetes can lead healthy and happy lives.
Diagnosis And Tests:
How are headaches in children diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will need to perform a physical examination in order to evaluate and diagnose the headaches. This examination will check for things like:
- High blood pressure.
- Muscle weakness.
- Balance problems.
- Vision problems.
Your child’s healthcare provider will ask several questions to get a better understanding of your child’s headaches. They may ask about:
- When did the headaches start?
- How often do the headaches occur?
- How often do they happen?
- How long do the headaches last?
- Where is the pain located?
- What does the pain feel like?
- What makes the pain feel better?
- What time of day does your child get a headache?
- What is the duration of each headache?
- Are the headaches throbbing or steady?
- Do the headaches affect one side or both sides of the head?
- What is the pain like? Is it throbbing, dull, or sharp?
- Does anything make the pain better or worse?
- Does your child have any other symptoms along with the headache, such as nausea, vomiting, or dizziness?
- Has your child ever had a head injury?
- Does anyone in your family have migraines or other types of headaches?
- Does your child take any medications (prescription or over-the-counter)? If so, please list them.
- Are there any other medical conditions that your child has?
- Is there anything that seems to trigger the headaches, such as certain foods, activities, or stress?
- Does anything make the headaches feel better, such as rest, sleep, or over-the-counter medications?
- Have there been any changes in your child’s vision, appetite, or mood?
- Has your child’s school performance changed recently?
- Is there a family history of migraines or other types of headaches?
What tests can help diagnose headaches in children?
If your child is experiencing headaches, your healthcare provider may request one or more imaging tests to determine the cause. These tests may include:
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
- MRA (magnetic resonance imaging of the arteries)
- CT scan (computed tomography)
- Blood tests can help to rule out or identify any underlying medical conditions that may be causing headaches.
- A polysomnogram is a sleep study that can help to identify any sleep disorders that may be contributing to headaches.
Imaging tests can provide valuable information about the cause of your child’s headaches and help develop an effective treatment plan. If your child is experiencing headaches, talk to their healthcare provider about which tests may be right for them.
Management And Treatment:
How are headaches treated in children and adolescents?
When treating headaches in children and adolescents, healthcare providers take into account a number of factors, including:
- The age of your child.
- The type of headache.
- How often the headaches happen.
- The cause of your child’s headache.
There are four main treatments for your child’s headaches:
- Headache education.
- Lifestyle changes.
- Stress management.
There are a variety of medications that can be used to treat headaches in children. These include over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, and prescription medications. Your healthcare provider will work with you to determine the best medication for your child based on the type and severity of their headaches.
- Relieve symptoms (symptomatic relief): Medications that provide symptomatic relief should be taken as soon as a headache starts. If taken early enough, they can help prevent the headache from getting worse. These medications work by reducing inflammation and pain. They include ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®), naproxen (Aleve®) and acetaminophen (Tylenol®).
- Stop a headache after it has started (abortive therapy): There are a number of abortive medications that can be used to stop a headache after it has started. These medications work by stopping the headache process, which can help prevent the symptoms of migraines such as pain, nausea and light sensitivity. Some examples of abortive medications include over-the-counter pain relievers, short-acting triptans such as sumatriptan (Imitrex®), and long-acting triptans such as frovatriptan (Frova®). If you are experiencing a migraine, talk to your doctor about which abortive medication may be right for you.
- Keep the headache from ever starting (preventative therapy): To prevent tension headaches or migraines from ever starting, you can try preventative therapy. This involves taking a daily dose of medication to reduce both the frequency and severity of headaches. The best medication for you will depend on the root cause of your headaches, as well as other factors such as your overall health. Some common medications used for preventative therapy include antidepressants, antihistamines and beta-blockers. If you think preventative therapy might be right for you, talk to your doctor about which option would be best for you.
Learning more about headaches and how to manage them can be helpful for both children and parents. Your healthcare provider can provide you with information on the different types of headaches, triggers, and treatments. In addition, there are many resources available online and through headache organizations that can provide helpful information.
Common triggers include:
- Lack of sleep.
- Specific foods.
- Caffeinated drinks (tea, coffee, soda).
- Nitrates (lunch meats, ham, bacon, sausage, pepperoni, hot dogs).
- Aged cheeses (tyramine-containing foods, like pizza).
- MSG-containing foods.
Making some simple lifestyle changes can often help to reduce the frequency and severity of headaches. These changes may include getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding triggers. There are many lifestyle choices that can contribute to the development of headaches. To reduce the risk of headaches, make sure your child gets:
- Eight hours of sleep every night.
- Six eight-ounce glasses of water every day.
- Three healthy meals every day.
- Cardio exercise (45 minutes, three times a week).
Stress is a common trigger for headaches. Helping your child to manage stress can often help to reduce their headaches. There are many different stress management techniques that can be helpful, including:
- Relaxation exercises
- Deep breathing exercises.
- Mindfulness or meditation.
- Mental imagery relaxation.
- Music therapy.
Who will treat my child’s headache? Will they need to see a specialist?
Your child may need to see a specialist if their headaches are severe or don’t respond to treatment. Some specialists who may be able to help your child include:
- Headache specialist.
- Ophthalmologist (vision issues).
- ENT (ear, nose and throat specialist for balance problems).
- Gastroenterologist (for stomach problems).
- Psychologist or psychiatrist (for stress and emotions).
How are headaches in children prevented?
There are a few things that can be done to help prevent headaches in children. Avoiding triggers is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of headaches. If your child is susceptible to headaches, try to identify any triggers and avoid them as much as possible. Taking preventative medications can also help reduce the frequency and severity of headaches. Ask your healthcare provider which medications are most effective for your child. Taking these measures can help your child feel better and suffer from fewer headaches.
How can my child avoid triggering a headache?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as each child’s triggers are unique. However, some common triggers include lack of sleep, specific foods, and caffeinated drinks (tea, coffee, soda). Identifying your child’s triggers and then avoiding them is the best way to prevent headaches. If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to speak with your child’s doctor.
FAQs of Headaches in Children:
What’s the outlook for children who experience headaches?
Children who experience headaches often have a reduced quality of life. But avoiding common triggers and finding appropriate treatment can significantly improve your child’s quality of life.
If your child experiences headaches, it’s important to talk to their doctor. Some children may need medication to prevent or relieve headaches. But in many cases, simple lifestyle changes can make a big difference.
Here are some tips to help reduce your child’s risk of headaches:
- Encourage them to get regular exercise
- Make sure they eat a healthy diet
- Help them manage stress
- Limit their screen time
- Make sure they get enough sleep
If you think your child may be experiencing migraines, it’s important to talk to their doctor. Migraines can be more serious than other types of headaches and may require specific treatment.
With the right management, most children who experience headaches can enjoy a good quality of life.
When can my child go back to school/daycare?
If your child is suffering from headaches, it’s important to discuss the severity and frequency of the headaches with their healthcare provider. They may have recommendations regarding school or daycare. Also, inform your child’s teachers and caretakers about their situation. This will help ensure that your child gets the best possible care and treatment for their headaches.
Do children outgrow headaches?
As your child grows, headaches may disappear. But they may return later in life. If your child has frequent or severe headaches, talk to your doctor. Some types of headaches can be treated effectively. And early treatment may prevent more serious problems down the road.
When should I take my child to see a healthcare provider?
There are a few instances when you should take your child to see a healthcare provider for their headaches. If the headaches are severe, happen suddenly, or are accompanied by other symptoms, then you should seek medical attention. Additionally, if your child has more than the occasional headache, it may be worth looking into underlying causes with a healthcare provider. By doing so, you can help your child find relief and prevent future headaches.
When should I take my child to the emergency room?
If your child is experiencing any of the following symptoms along with a headache, it is important to take them to the emergency room: weakness, diarrhea or vomiting that won’t stop, vision loss, confusion, fever, dizziness, numbness, shortness of breath, stiff neck, or any changes to the ears, throat, eyes or nose. These could be signs of a more serious condition and prompt medical attention is necessary.
A note from The Health Talks:
As a parent, it’s natural to worry when your child has a headache. However, it’s important to remember that headaches are very common in children and usually aren’t cause for concern.
If your child is experiencing headaches, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider. They will be able to rule out any underlying causes and provide treatment options. In the meantime, keep track of your child’s medications and lifestyle changes. This information will be helpful in finding the best course of treatment.
Headaches are common in both children and adults, but they can be particularly alarming for parents when their child experiences them. In most cases, headaches are caused by benign factors such as stress, allergies, or dehydration. However, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of more serious causes of headaches in children, such as tumors or infections. By understanding the potential causes of your child’s headaches, you can better seek appropriate treatment if necessary.
Most parents wouldn’t even think about their child having a headache unless it’s brought to their attention by the child themselves. And even then, most parents would likely just give their child an over-the-counter medication and call it a day. But headaches in children can sometimes be