Like adults, children are not immune from suffering with occasional headaches. In fact, 20% of children are susceptible to tension headaches, while another 5% get migraines. As a parent, there’s nothing worse than feeling helpless when your child is in pain. Read on to learn about the different types of headaches and symptoms children experience, effective prevention techniques, and when to seek medical treatment.
Different Kinds of Headaches and Symptoms in Children
Acute Illness – Children will experience headaches with an underlying illness like the common cold, flu, sinusitis, ear and throat infections, and more.
Tension Headaches – These headaches are usually the result of stress, eyestrain, and neck or back strain due to bad posture. They can last from 30 minutes to many days in a row. Symptoms of tension headaches include:
- Tightness or pressing of muscles in the head or neck
- Constant pain at the temples
- Pain that stays constant during physical activity
Migraines – Up to 70% of children with migraines usually have a parent or sibling who suffers with the condition. Physicians are still studying why migraines occur, but believe chemical and physical changes in the brain are responsible. Migraine symptoms include:
- Pulsing, pounding and throbbing headache
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sensitivity to sounds and lights
- Stomach pain
- Pain that increases with physical activity
Known migraine triggers include:
- Bright light
- Weather changes
- Emotional stress
- Lengthy sun exposure
- Hormonal changes (girls)
When to See a Doctor
Seek medical attention immediately if your child exhibits any of the following symptoms during a headache:
- Reduced vision
- Weakness of muscles
- Pain that wakes them from sleep
- Pain in the back of the head, especially for younger children
- Pain that worsens or lasts longer than normal episodes
During the examination, the doctor will ask your child detailed questions about his or her symptoms, such as the duration and specific kind of pain. It’s important that your child answer these questions as accurately as possible for a correct diagnosis. Usually a diagnosis is made based on a discussion about the symptoms. However, the doctor may administer a CT or MRI test for additional diagnostic information.
How You Can Help Your Child
Once a diagnosis is made, you can help your child stick to a treatment plan to track and treat headache symptoms. One of the best ways to help your child is to keep a detailed daily diary that can help pinpoint headache triggers such as poor sleep, missing meals, caffeine intake, and emotional stress.
For tension headaches, treatment options can include:
- Hot showers
- Warm compresses on the neck or forehead
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
- Slightly elevating the head while lying down
For migraines, you can try:
- Lying down in a dark quiet room
- Applying a hot or cold compress to the forehead
- Giving over-the-counter pain relievers no more than two times a week
For all headache types, you can try some of these natural remedies to see if they reduce the frequency or severity of your child’s headaches:
- Professional massages – Massage can alleviate muscle tension that lead to headaches.
- B2 supplements – Studies show this vitamin may reduce the incidence and severity of headaches.
- Magnesium – Teens with migraines have lower than average magnesium levels. Give your child a supplement or serve them foods rich in the mineral such as dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and beans.
Headache Treatment for Children in NYC
At Complete Neurological Care, we specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of headaches and migraines in children and adults. Schedule an appointment today at one of our nine convenient locations.