Children’s headaches rarely indicate a serious problem. They are more frequent in children whose parents often discuss their own headaches. Children tend to imitate their parents, so mention headaches as little as possible. Emotional tension is the most common cause of headaches in children. A parent can often discover the cause of stress and help relieve it. Many times, just talking about a problem may help a child relax. Some children try to do too much, or are pushed to do too much at home or at school. Even fun activities can be overdone and cause fatigue and headaches. Encourage your children to talk openly about problems and stress at school. Tension headaches are common in teenagers, and are generally caused by emotional stress related to school, sports, or relationships. Migraine headaches sometimes begin during the teen years. Hunger can also cause headaches in children. A daily breakfast and a nutritious after-school snack may prevent them. Eyestrain may also cause headaches. Headaches are also common with viral illnesses that cause fever, such as colds and flu.
- Talk to your child. Try to discover the source of the headache and deal with it. Let the child know you care. Tension headaches are sometimes “attention” headaches. With quiet time and extra attention, most tension headaches in children can be managed without pain relievers.
- Play quietly with the child, or read stories together.
- If the headache is still present, have the child lie down in a darkened room with a cool cloth on the forehead.
- If non-drug treatments do not relieve the pain, try acetaminophen. Avoid creating the pattern of using pill for every pain. Do not give aspirin to children.
When to Call a Health Professional:
- If a headache is severe and is not relieved by relaxation or acetaminophen.
- If a severe headache occurs with signs of encephalitis or meningitis, especially following a viral illness.
- If a child’s headaches occur two to three times a week or more, or if you are using pain relievers to control a child’s headaches more than once a week.
- If you cannot discover a reasonable cause. A child may share problems with someone other than a parent.
- If headaches awaken the child at night or are worse early in the morning.