When Should You Worry About Your Child’s Headache
As many as one in six teens experience migraines. For some, the headaches become severe, debilitating or chronic. Approximately 2% of teens have headaches daily or every other day.
Headaches can occur on their own, or as a symptom of another condition. While headaches can be a sign of a serious problem like a brain tumor, this is true only about 1% of the time. If your child develops a severe, new headache out of the blue, has a headache that is getting worse, or has a concussion, seek help from your pediatrician immediately. In 99% of cases, the headaches are related to a relatively mild problem like a treatable infection, or related to primary headache disorder, meaning that there is not another underlying problem.
Primary headache disorders include:
- Tension headaches the most common type of headache that produces mild to moderate pain
- Migraines severe, debilitating headaches that can last hours or days and are often accompanied with pain, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and dizziness
- Chronic migraines frequent painful headaches , that occur for at least three months in a row
Is Your Childs Headache Cause For Concern
When your child complains of a headache, it can be anything from a plea to stay home from school in hopes of avoiding a test, to a sign of something more serious. But how can you tell the difference? And when is it time to see the pediatrician? Dr. Sharief Taraman, a pediatric neurologist at CHOC, offers advice on what parents can do to keep headaches at bay, the importance of identifying a pattern in your childs headaches, options for treatment, and what types of headache warrant a trip to the emergency department.
First, its important to be able to identify what type of headache your child may be suffering from.
What To Do For Childs Headache
- Keep encouraging plenty of fluids to keep them hydrated. Juice can be helpful for a quicker boost of sugar/calories, especially if your kiddo hasnât eaten in awhile or missed a meal.
- Have them rest in a dark, quiet room. Put them down for a nap!
- Reduce stress â find a place where your kiddo can rest for a few minutes.
- Make sure your child has eaten recently! Offer a healthy snack.
- Put an ice pack or cold washcloth across their forehead.
Don’t Miss: Are Migraines A Symptom Of Pregnancy
How Often Do Teens Get Headaches And Migraines
Headaches and migraines in teens are one of the most common health complaints. By the time your teen is 15 years old, he or she has probably had at least one significant headache. By the age of 18 years, more than 90 percent of teens have experienced a headache girls experience headaches more often than boys
What Kind Of Headache Can You Have Without A Headache
The International Headache Society classifies this type as typical aura without headache. If you have ever had a migraine that felt more like a stroke, it was probably a Hemiplegic Migraine.
This includes visual, sensory and/or speech or language symptoms and at least 2 of the following additional symptoms: slurred speech,vertigo , tinnitus , double vision, unsteadiness, and a severe sensitivity to sound.
Recommended Reading: Migraine Cream Of Tartar
Can You Have A Headache For 5 Days
It might be a migraine, and if it is the doctor can give you something for the pain. As a migraine sufferer, my doctor has advised me to book an appointment whenever my headaches change so he can check there is nothing more serious occuring. Lasting five days is a change that would warrant a visit.
If you have a headache more than 15 days a month, youre probably suffering from chronic migraine. Many of the days often feel like typical migraine, but there may be considerable variability in the severity of the symptoms and head pain on any given day.
Migraine Symptoms In Children
Migraines in children are occasional headaches that usually last several hours and usually get better when children rest or sleep. Migraines can cause:
- feeling, or
- moving their body.
It’s important for parents to remember that children younger than 7 years of age may not be able to describe many of these symptoms clearly.
Don’t Miss: How To Get A Migraine
What To Do For Babys Headache
- Continue offering fluids, such as breast milk/formula.
- Snuggle her in a dark, quiet room. Decreased stimulation helps.
- Avoid vigorous bouncing or swaying. Rock your love gently.
- Put a cool washcloth across her forehead.
- Hang onto your patience, mom and dad. Increased crying is exhausting for all of you, I can empathize. Take turns and take a break when needed â you got this.
Because babies cannot tell us theyâre having headaches, always check with their pediatrician if you think something is going on. Even if youâre convinced it is âjustâ a headache!
Psychological Physiologic And Environmental Triggers
In predisposed individuals, migraine attacks can occur as a result of psychological, physiologic, or environmental triggers however, encourage the patient to maintain a relatively normal lifestyle by optimizing trigger factors and using prophylactic medications.
Psychological triggers include stress, anxiety, worry, depression, and bereavement. Emphasizing to the patient and family that migraine is not an imagined or psychological illness is important. Stress is not the sole cause of migraine, although it makes an underlying migraine predisposition more difficult to manage. The frequency of migraines can be reduced by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but it cannot be eliminated.
Physiologic triggers include fever or illness, fasting, missing a meal, fatigue, and sleep deprivation. Encourage children with migraine attacks to maintain a routine with regular meal times and adequate sleep. Ice cream or cold is an interesting physiologic stimulus. Raskin and Knittle found that ingestion of ice cream caused headaches in 93% of their migraine patients. The headache typically was located at the usual site of migraine pain.
Environmental triggers of migraine include the following:
Read Also: How To Cure Migraine Naturally
When To Call Your Pediatrician
The cardinal rule for thinking about headaches is first or worst. In practical terms, if your child has never had a headache before, you need to evaluate carefully.
- Did he have any recent head trauma, such as a fall or a sports injury?
- Was she sick with a bad virus?
- Is he vomiting or does he have a fever?
- Is she unable to walk, talk, and eat normally?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, its time to call the pediatrician. A concussion, a severe infection, or even a rare but more ominous cause for a headache could be the trigger. Many people worry about a brain tumor, but this is very unlikely. You should never be alone with worry about your childs headache, and your pediatrician can help to steer you toward the best treatment.
How Do I Get My 5 Year Old To Stop Being Bossy
How to Stop a Child from Being BossyBy Marcia Hall.Get rid of the negative assumptions about bossy children. Model directives that are kind. Choose when you ask vs. Do not always let the child get her way. Avoid making older siblings your eyes for their younger siblings. Ignore tattling. Give her more control over herself.Jan 31, 2013
Don’t Miss: Migraine Medications With Caffeine
Potential Symptoms Of Light Sensitivity In Children
For obvious reasons, determining the cause of these symptoms in children or toddlers with light sensitivity can be difficult since they may not be able to verbalize whats bothering them. But there are some signs of photophobia to watch for, including:
- Persistently touching or itching their eyes
- Eye redness or swelling
- Complaints that they cant see well
- Complaints of headaches
- Rubbing their neck or complaining of neck pain
- Feeling dizzy or sick to their stomach
- Extreme squinting under bright or normal lighting conditions
Keep in mind that children may react to these symptoms or express them differently than an adult would. They might act out aggressively, have tantrums, or seem stressed. If you feel your child might be light sensitive, or if they have any of the conditions listed in this article, pay attention to the lighting conditions when you observe this behavior. Especially in kids and toddlers, photophobia might be easy to overlook.
What Headache Symptoms In Children Should Parents Look For
A lot depends on your child’s age and their ability to communicate with you. Children as young as infants can experience headaches.
The way they express their pain is different depending on their age. Babies who can’t speak yet may cry, touch their heads or tightly close their eyes to avoid painful stimuli. Toddlers or elementary-age children may say their head hurts, bright lights are bothering them or use visual imagery to express their level of pain. Teens may become moody or withdrawn. Children experiencing headaches may report pain in the front of their head, or all over their head. Headaches in children may occur repeatedly, be provoked by something or occur out of the blue.
Don’t Miss: Migraines Side Effects
Ripple Effects On Kids Education Life And Health
But these treatments arent cures. Adams would have to pick up her daughter from school or email teachers, explaining why her daughter cant complete homework. Its so important to listen and give them the time they need to feel better, not just pushing through for the sake of school, she says.
This is something Dean Dyer, a mother and author in Texas, agrees with. It was scary and frustrating, Dyer says as she recalls her sons early migraine experiences, which began when he was 9 years old. Hed get them several times a month. Theyd be so debilitating that hed miss out on school and activities.
Dyer, who has some health issues of her own, says she knew she had to be her childs advocate and not give up on finding answers. She recognized the symptoms of a migraine right away and took her son to his doctor.
He was allergic to mountain cedar and other things, which are prevalent in our area, especially in the fall, says Dyer. Doctors tested him for allergies and her son began receiving allergy shots.
Avoiding triggers and treating allergies has helped Dyers son. Before he learned that mountain cedar triggered his migraines, Dyer says her son would get them several times a month, causing him to miss school and activities. Since he began receiving allergy shots, he rarely has migraines.
Migraine Care At Norton Childrens
Your health care provider team may order additional tests for your child if there are features of the headache that raise concerns for a different type of headache.
Reasons to seek immediate evaluation by your pediatrician or an emergency department include:
- Thunderclap headache a headache that is severe within a few minutes of its onset
- Positional headache a headache that changes significantly depending on whether you are lying down or standing up
- Headache that starts after a trauma or whiplash
- Headache that wakes you from sleep at night
- Headache associated with other symptoms, such as weight loss, fever or rash
- Headache with focal neurologic symptoms, such as weakness in the arms or legs, unsteady walking, difficulty hearing or communicating, seizure, etc.
- Changes in your thinking or speech during a headache
Migraines often are underdiagnosed in children, but it is a major cause of disability that can cause kids to miss school and activities, and can affect quality of life. Many children outgrow migraines, but about a third of children will continue to experience migraines as an adult.
Recommended Reading: Prolonged Migraine Aura
Migraine Triggers In Children
Stress. Many children suffer from elevated stress levels, to the point that some schools are even starting to teach yoga and meditation. Encourage your children to decompress each day, providing a routine that isnt too hectic. Relaxation techniques, biofeedback and other stress management tools do work in reducing the severity and disability related to migraines.
Sleep. From ages 3 to 5, children need at least 11 hours a night, and from age 5 to adulthood, at least 8 hours a night. Be firm about bedtimes, and if its difficult for your child to get to sleep, make sure that you stop all screen use for at least an hour before bedtime. Its also a good idea to use a sleep routine, which can include a bath, a story, and listening to an audiobook or music.
Dehydration. The Mayo clinic recommends 5 glasses of water for 5-8 year olds, 7 glasses for 9-12 year olds, and 8-10 glasses for 13+ year olds. Its a good idea to send your child to school with a bottle of water, and to provide water when you pick them up from school. If your child complains of a headache, many parents say that the first thing they do is give a glass of water and let them rest.
Many of those living with migraine report that their migraine started as a child. If one parent has migraine, a child has a 50% risk of experiencing migraine, and if both parents have migraine, the risk goes up to 75%.
Common Types Of Migraine In Children And Youth
Children can also suffer from chronic or episodic headaches, and it is important to recognize the symptoms
According to the National Headache Foundation, 20% of school-aged children from 5 to 17 are prone to headaches. Of that population, 15% will suffer from tension-type headaches, while the other 5% will be prone to migraine .
Headaches and migraine can happen to anyone, at any age, including young children. Not only that, but the intricacies and symptoms of the disorder are different in children than in adults common migraine symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound are not always prevalent in child sufferers. Children, in addition, cannot always vocalize or describe in detail what they are feeling, which makes diagnosis even more difficult. These patients may go undiagnosed for years, leading into adulthood, which can take a toll on their emotional and mental well being.
The American Migraine Foundation outlines a few key differences between childrens migraine and those of adults:
- migraines in children are typically shorter in duration and occur less frequently
- the pain children experience tends to be more bilateral, such as across the forehead, rather than unilateral
- while common symptoms may not be reported, a lot can be deferred from a childs behavior, such as wanting to sleep or lay down in a dark, quiet room.
Common Migraine Without Aura
Classic Migraine With Aura
You May Like: Side Effects Of Migraine Medication
Key Points About Headaches In Children
A headache is pain or discomfort in one or more areas of the head or face. Headaches can happen once in a while. Or they may happen often.
Primary headaches are not linked to another health condition. They are usually caused by tight muscles, widened blood vessels, changes in nerve signals, or swelling in parts of the brain.
Secondary headaches are the least common type of headaches. They are caused by a problem in the brain, or another health condition or disease.
In addition to head pain, your child may have nausea or vomiting.
Your child may have an MRI or a CT scan to help diagnose what may be causing a headache.
Treatment may include resting, taking medicines, managing stress, getting more sleep, and not having certain foods or drinks.
Migraine Is Disabling In Kids And Teens Too
While symptoms of migraine in kids and teens may be different from those typically found in adults, children can be just as disabled. In addition to the attack-related disability itself, kids and teens may develop anticipatory anxiety, worrying that at any time an attack could disrupt their life. Its quite common for kids who suffer to be absent from school and unable to participate in after-school and weekend activities. In fact, kids who have migraine are absent from school twice as often as kids who dont.
Kids and especially adolescents and teens can also suffer from one of the most disabling types of migraine, chronic migraine . CM occurs when a child has 15 or more headache days per month lasting more than 4 hours, for more than 3 months. Many teenagers with CM report daily headaches. Head pain isnt the only symptom of CM other common symptoms include dizziness, sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, and fatigue. CM is challenging to treat and significantly impairs quality of life.
Recommended Reading: Mayo Migraines
Treatment For Chronic Headaches
Treatment relies on all options that can hopefully break the vicious cycle of chronic daily headache. Treatment may include:
Is It Normal For A 14 Year Old To Have Migraines
Unfortunately, migraine is very common in children. Its been reported in kids as young as 18 months old. About 10% of school-age children suffer from migraine, and up to 28% of adolescents between 15-19 years are affected by it. Half of all migraine sufferers have their first attack before the age of 12.
Also Check: Does Naproxen Help Migraines
How Are Headaches Treated In A Child
Treatment will depend on your childs symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on what type of headache your child has and how severe it is.
The goal of treatment is to stop the headache from occurring. Treatment may include:
Resting in a quiet, dark environment
Taking medicines recommended by your child’s healthcare provider
Learning how to manage stress
Staying away from foods and drinks that trigger headaches
Getting enough sleep
Making changes to your child’s diet
Migraine headaches may be treated with medicine, such as:
Abortive medicines. These prescription medicines act on specific receptors in blood vessels in the head. They can stop a headache in progress.
Rescue medicines. These are over-the-counter medicines such as acetaminophen that stop a headache.
Preventive medicines. These prescription medicines are taken daily to reduce severe migraine headaches.
In some cases, a headache may need medical attention right away. Your child may need to stay overnight in the hospital to be watched. He or she may need testing or surgery.
Talk with your childs healthcare providers about the risks, benefits, and possible side effects of all treatments.