You are currently viewing Headaches: When Little Heads Hurt

Children do get headaches and the causes are as varied for them as for adults. A headache can often be easily remedied, but there are some precautions you can take.

Children can get chronic headaches that occur a few times a week, episodic headaches that happen a few times a month, stress or tension headaches, and even migraines. Head pain could be caused by anxiety or stress for example during test time, because of illness, infection or sinus or a bump to the head. Eye strain, disrupted sleep or a lack of sleep could also result in a sore head. Some foods have been linked to head pains as well – nitrates, which can be found in cured meat, MSG and caffeine. And very rarely, a headache can be linked to a tumour, abscess or bleeding in the brain.

how do you know if your child has a headache?

Children will most likely tell you when they have a headache, but if not, there are symptoms to look out for. Young children or babies, who may not be able to tell you their head is sore, may cry a lot, hold their head, or just want to sleep more than usual. Other symptoms can include a throbbing pain in the head, nausea or vomiting. Children may be sensitive to light or loud sounds, or they may show changes in concentration or speech. Some of the other associated symptoms include fever, congestion, a runny nose, weakness or even clumsiness.

how do you treat them?

When children complain of a sore head, you can try taking certain steps before giving them pain medication. As a precautionary measure, ensure children are getting enough sleep and are following a regular, healthy diet. If they do have a headache, get them to lie down in a dark, quiet room, and place a cool cloth over their forehead and eyes. Learning to relax can help, especially for a tension headache, so encourage deep breathing. If this is a persistent problem, consider some form of relaxation training, which would allow children to manage their stress whenever they feel anxious.

Over-the-counter pain medication can also be used to treat headaches. Don’t use aspirin for children, as it has been associated with Reye’s syndrome. For more chronic headaches or migraines, speak to a doctor about prescription painkillers. Keep in mind that overuse of medication can sometimes cause headaches; see your doctor if the pain doesn’t stop.

Read our article on dealing with pain and fever.

when should you worry?

Sore heads can often be dealt with easily, but there are times when you should take further steps. When a headache wakes your child, gets worse, or starts happening more frequently, you should see a doctor. If a headache follows a bump to the head, or comes with a fever, persistent vomiting, neck pain or neck stiffness, again, take your child to see a doctor.

Find out more about children and headaches from the medical experts here and here.