Headaches are a common and frustrating problem in children and adolescents. Whether they are pounding and throbbing or dull and aching, headaches can give you and your child some sleepless nights. Though not serious, headaches can have a wide range of causes and many levels of severity. However, headaches that occur more often can be upsetting and may begin to worry you and your child. It’s important to understand how to recognize when a headache is just a pain and when it’s something more and requires medical attention.
Common forms of headaches in children
What are the causes of headaches in children?
Headaches are supposed to be a result of changes in chemicals, nerves, or blood vessels in the area. Normally, children get the same types of headaches as adults. Some of the potential headache triggers in children are:
There are many different types of headaches
and reasons as to why they occur. Headaches can range from mild to severe to very severe. Common types of headaches in children include:
- Tension headaches: Fairly common in children, tension headaches can be brought on by a variety of emotional and physical stressors. The pain is often described as:
- Regular pressure around the front and sides of the head
- Dull and aching
A major difference between tension headaches and migraines
is that tension headaches normally are not associated with nausea or vomiting and they are typically not made worse by physical activity- symptoms that do often occur with migraines.
- Migraines: Often triggered by things like stress, sleep deprivation, and menstruation, migraine headaches can depict the following signs and symptoms:
When to visit the doctor
- Pounding, throbbing pain or dull, steady pain on one or both sides of the head
- Nausea and vomiting
- Seeing spots or halos
- Sensitivity to light, noise or smells
Call the doctor if your child also has any of these symptoms:
Certain points to remember
- Decreased level of alertness
- Headache when your child wakes up, or one that actually wakes up your child
- Headache following a head injury or loss of consciousness
- Headache accompanied by seizures
- Visual changes
- Tingling sensations
- Skin rash
- Difficulty walking or standing
- Difficulty speaking
- Neck pain or stiffness
- Fever or other signs of infection
- Unable to go to school or participate in everyday routines and activities
- Change in personality
- Drinking or peeing a lot
- Headaches in children are uncomfortable and may cause you to worry. They are rarely associated with a more serious medical condition.
- Care for simple headaches by making your child feel comfortable. Give over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen.
- A neurologist does a medical examination to help identify the cause of a recurrent or persistent headache.
- Your child should have an immediate assessment in the clinic or emergency department if he/she has sudden onset and severe headaches.