Headaches in children
Headaches in children
Headaches in children are common and usually aren't serious. Like adults, children can develop different types of headaches, including migraine or stress-related (tension) headaches. Children can also have chronic daily headaches.
In some cases, headaches in children are caused by an infection, high levels of stress or anxiety, or minor head trauma. It's important to pay attention to your child's headache symptoms and consult a doctor if the headache worsens or occurs frequently. Headaches in children usually can be treated with over-the-counter pain medications and other lifestyle measures.
Children get the same types of headaches adults do, but their symptoms may differ. For example, a migraine in an adult usually starts early in the morning, but a child's is more likely to develop in the late afternoon. Also, migraine pain in children may last less than four hours, whereas in adults, migraines last at least four hours. Such differences may make it difficult to pinpoint headache type in a child, especially in a younger child who can't describe symptoms.
In general, though, certain symptoms tend to fall more frequently under certain categories.
Even infants can have migraines. A child who's too young to tell you what's wrong may cry and hold his or her head to indicate severe pain.
Younger children may withdraw from regular play and want to sleep more. Tension-type headaches can last from 30 minutes to several days.
Chronic daily headache
When to see a doctor
A number of factors can cause your child to develop headache. Factors include:
Any child can develop headaches, but they're more common in:
Preparing for your appointment
Typically, you make an appointment with your family doctor or your child's pediatrician. Depending on the frequency and severity of your child's symptoms, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in conditions of the brain and nervous system (neurologist).
Here's information to help you get ready for your child's appointment and to know what to expect from the doctor.
What you can do
For headaches in children, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
Don't hesitate to ask any other questions you have.
What to expect from your doctor
What you can do in the meantime
Consider giving your child over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Children's Motrin, others) to ease symptoms. Use caution when giving aspirin to children or teenagers. Though aspirin is approved for use in children older than age 2, children and teenagers recovering from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms should never take aspirin. This is because aspirin has been linked to Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition, in such children. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns.
Tests and diagnosis
To learn about the nature of your child's headache, your doctor will likely look to:
Treatments and drugs
Usually you can treat your child's headache at home with rest, decreased noise, plenty of fluids, balanced meals and over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers. If your child is older and has frequent headaches, learning to relax and manage stress through different forms of therapy may help, as well.
Lifestyle and home remedies
OTC pain medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), are usually effective in reducing headache pain. Before giving your child pain medication, keep these points in mind:
In addition to OTC pain medications, the following can help ease your child's headache:
The following may help you prevent headaches or reduce the severity of headaches in children:
Last Updated: 2013-06-26
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