What is headache in children?

Headache in Children
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Headache in children: Overview

Headaches have many possible causes. Most headaches are not a sign of a more serious problem, and they will get better on their own. Home treatment may help your child feel better soon.

If your child's headaches continue, get worse, or occur along with new symptoms, your child may need more testing and treatment. Watch for changes in your child's pain and other symptoms. These may be signs of a more serious problem.

Preventing headaches in your child

To prevent migraines and tension headaches in your child, try these tips.

  • Keep a headache diary.

    This diary can help you find a link between your child's headaches and the things that trigger them. Help your child write down when each headache starts, how long it lasts, where it hurts, and what the pain is like. (Is it throbbing, aching, stabbing, or dull?)

  • Help your child avoid their headache triggers.

    Triggers are things that can cause your child to have headaches. Your child may be able to prevent headaches by avoiding the triggers.

  • Find healthy ways to help your child manage stress.

    Don't let your child's schedule get too busy or filled with stressful events.

  • Make sure that your child drinks plenty of fluids.

    Avoid drinks that have caffeine. Many popular soda drinks contain caffeine.

  • Make sure that your child gets plenty of sleep.

    Help your child keep a regular sleep schedule. Most children need to sleep about 9 to 14 hours each night, depending on their age.

  • Encourage your child to get plenty of exercise.

    But your child should exercise without overdoing it.

  • Limit TV, video games, and computer time.
  • Make sure that your child doesn't skip meals.

    Provide regular, healthy meals.

  • Keep your child away from smoke.

    Do not smoke or let anyone else smoke around your child or in your house.

  • If your child is having problems with schoolwork, talk to your child's teachers.

    Make sure that the level and amount of schoolwork is appropriate for your child.

  • If your doctor has prescribed a medicine to prevent headaches, have your child take it as prescribed.

    Your child may need to take it even when they don't have a headache.

Caring for your child who has headaches

Home treatment can help relieve your child's headaches. It also can help reduce how often the headaches occur.

Follow these steps for treating your child's migraines or tension headaches at home.

  • Give your child comfort and support.

    Headaches can be painful and upsetting. Easing stress or anxiety about the headaches is important for helping your child feel better.

  • Give medicines exactly as your child's doctor says.

    If your child's doctor has not prescribed any medicines for headaches, give your child a pain reliever, such as children's acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

  • Don't let your child take medicine for headache pain too often.

    Talk to the doctor if your child is taking medicine more than 2 days a week to stop a headache. Taking too much pain medicine can lead to more headaches. These are called medicine-overuse headaches.

  • Have your child go to a quiet, dark room to rest.

    Most headaches will go away with rest or sleep. Watching TV, using the computer, talking on the phone, sending text messages, and reading can often make the headache worse.

  • Put a cold, moist cloth or ice pack on the part of the head that hurts.

    If you use ice, put a thin cloth between the ice and your child's skin.

  • Heat can help relax your child's muscles.

    Try a warm bath or shower. Or use a warm, moist towel or heating pad set on low to relax tight muscles in your child's shoulders and neck.

  • Gently massage your child's neck and shoulders.
  • Give your child fluids.

    You can give your child water. Don't give your child drinks that contain caffeine. Fluids may help the headache go away faster.

How can you care for your child who has a headache?

  • Have your child rest in a quiet, dark room until the headache is gone. It's best for your child to close their eyes and try to relax or go to sleep. Tell your child not to watch TV or read.
  • Put a cold, moist cloth or cold pack on the painful area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the cold pack and your child's skin.
  • Heat can help relax your child's muscles. Try a warm bath or shower. Or use a warm, moist towel or heating pad set on low to relax tight muscles in your child's shoulders and neck.
  • Gently massage your child's neck and shoulders.
  • Be safe with medicines. Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Be careful not to give your child pain medicine more often than the instructions allow, because this can cause worse or more frequent headaches when the medicine wears off.
  • Do not ignore new symptoms that occur with a headache, such as a fever, weakness or numbness, vision changes, vomiting (especially if it happens in the morning), or confusion. These may be signs of a more serious problem.

Headache in children: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child seems very sick or is hard to wake up.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child's headache gets much worse.
  • Your child has new symptoms, such as fever, vomiting, or a stiff neck.
  • Your child has tingling, weakness, or numbness in any part of the body.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.

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