Headaches in children : Causes-Symptoms-Diagnosis-Treatment

What are Headaches in children?

Kids often get headaches. Headaches can be classified based on their cause, such as migraines or tension headaches. Children can also experience chronic daily headaches.

What are Headaches in children?
Headaches in children

Headache symptoms in children can be caused by an infection, high levels of stress or anxiety, or a minor head trauma. If your child's headache gets worse or occurs frequently, it is important to see a doctor.

Most headaches in children can be treated with OTC pain medications and healthy habits such as a regular sleep and eating schedule.

  1. Nervous system

  1. Brain

  2. Cerebral hemispheres

  3. Diencephalon or interbrain

  4. Thalamus

  5. Hypothalamus

  6. Midbrain

  7. Cerebellum

  8. Pons

  9. Medulla oblongata

  10. The spinal cord

  11. The ventricular system

  12. Choroid plexus

Medical terms

  • A headache is pain or discomfort within the head or face space. Headaches is single or repeated in nature, and localized to at least one or additional areas of the pinnacle and face
  • A headache is pain felt somewhere within the head or neck.They're quite common in youngsters, and have a good variety of causes and plenty of levels of severity.

  • It's important to grasp a way to acknowledge once a headache may be a passing pain and once it's one thing additional and wishes treatment.
  • A headache is one among the foremost common complaints of kids and teenagers. There are many alternative forms of headaches. every kind could also be treated otherwise. an in depth history and physical communicating will facilitate puzzle out what reasonably headache your kid has.

Headaches are a common symptom of childhood illnesses and can be triggered by many different things. Most headaches in children are not serious but it’s important to know when to seek medical attention for your child.

Headaches are a common problem in children and can be caused by several factors such as tension headaches physical activity or food allergy Some of the things you should know about headaches in children include that they can last for hours to days and usually follow a particular pattern When looking for symptoms of headaches parents should observe their child's behavior such as restlessness irritability and sleep problems.

Types of Headaches

  • Migraine headache – This is a severe type of headache that has specific symptoms and keeps coming back. If you think that your child has migraine headaches, you should make an appointment with their health care provider for a thorough evaluation.

  • Tension headache – This is a more common and milder type of headache. Your child may say the pain feels like a tight band around their head. Some of the common causes are emotional stress, getting too tired, and poor hydration (not drinking enough).

  • Headache from infection – These headaches occur with viral infections such as colds and flu. They usually stop when the illness is over. Sinus congestion and infections can cause head pain around the eyes and nose.

  • Medication overuse headache (analgesic rebound headache) – Do not give over-the-counter pain medicines more than 2 days a week. Taking them too often can cause medication overuse headaches. These are headaches that come back sooner, more often, and are more painful. If your child needs medicine more often, talk to their health care provider.

  • Headaches after a head injury – Headaches are common after a head injury. They are usually mild and go away within 2 weeks. Sometimes, though, the pain may occur for several weeks or months after an injury.

  • Headaches with dental problems (such as jawbone joint problems) – When a child has jaw pain or discomfort, pain in the temples (the soft spots between the eyes and the ears) or hears a clicking sound when opening the jaw, they should see a dentist. Grinding of the teeth may also cause this type of headache.

Symptoms Headaches in children

Children get the same types of headaches as adults do, but their symptoms may vary. For example, adult migraine pain often lasts for at least four hours; but in children the pain may last for a shorter period of time.

It may be hard to identify the type of headache a child has, especially if the child is younger. Symptoms often fall into certain categories, but there may be occasional exceptions.


Migraines can cause:

  • Pulsating or throbbing head pain

  • Pain that worsens with activity

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Abdominal pain

  • People who are extremely sensitive to light and sound may find it difficult to live in normal environments.

Migraines can affect even very young children. If your child is crying or moving around in a way that seems very painful, it may be a sign of a migraine.

Tension-type headache

Tension-type headaches can cause:

  • A headache or neck pain is a feeling of tightness in the muscles in the head or neck.

  • You have mild to moderate non-pulsating pain on both sides of your head.

  • Physical activity does not worsen pain.

  • Migraine headaches are not always accompanied by nausea or vomiting, which is often the case with headache.

Children may withdraw from regular play and want to sleep more when they have tension-type headaches. Headaches can last from 30 minutes to several days for younger children, and adults may experience headaches as well.

Cluster headache

Most children don't get cluster headaches until they are in their early teens. Cluster headaches are rare in young children. They usually occur when:

  • Headaches can occur in groups of five or more episodes, ranging from one headache every other day to eight a day.

  • A headache may feel sharp and stabbing on one side of the head for less than three hours.

  • These symptoms may occur when a person is feeling upset or anxious.

Chronic daily headache

Chronic daily headaches are headaches that occur more than 15 times a month. They may be caused by an infection, a minor head injury, or taking pain medications (even non-prescription pain medications) too often.

When to see a doctor

If your child experiences headaches, seek prompt medical attention if they are severe. Most headaches are not serious, but if they are severe, then you should go to the doctor.

  • Wake your child from sleep

  • Worsen or become more frequent

  • Change your child's personality

  • If you are injured, follow the instructions that are given to you.

  • If vomiting or other visual changes persist, it might be a sign of a more serious illness.

  • These symptoms are usually accompanied by a fever and neck pain or stiffness.

If you are worried or have any questions about your child's frequent headaches, talk to their doctor.

Causes Headaches in children

There are many things that can cause headaches. Some of these factors include:

  • Illness and infection.Headaches are among the most common illnesses in children. Some of the most common causes of headaches are colds, flu, and ear and sinus infections. Very rarely, meningitis or encephalitis may cause headaches.

  • Head trauma.If your child gets a bump or bruise, it may cause a headache. If the injury is minor, see a doctor right away if your child falls and hits his or her head. Also contact a doctor if your child's headache steadily worsens after getting injured in the head.

  • Emotional factors.Headaches can sometimes be caused by stress and anxiety. This may be due to problems with peers, teachers, or parents. Children who are depressed may report headaches more often when they struggle to recognize feelings of sadness and loneliness.

  • Genetic predisposition.People who get headaches are more likely to have them if they have a family history of them.

  • Certain foods and beverages.Foods that contain nitrates or food additives that can cause headaches can also be found in cured meats, such as bacon and bologna, and in foods with caffeine, such as chocolate and sports drinks.

  • Problems in the brain.If you have a chronic headache, it is not always a brain tumor or an abscess. In some cases, however, other symptoms may be present such as dizziness and loss of coordination.

Risk factors Headaches in children

Headaches are more common in children, but they can happen to anyone.

  • Girls after they reach puberty

  • Children who have a family history of headaches or migraines may be at an increased risk for developing them.

  • Older teens

How do I get rid of my child's headache without medicine?

If your child has a headache there is no need to reach for the prescription naproxen (Aleve) or ibuprofen (Advil) tablets Before you reach for that bottle of pain relievers try these common options.

Is it normal for a 9 year old to have headaches?

Yes It is not uncommon for a 9 year old to suffer from headaches The reasons for them are many and varied but the most likely cause is stress or tension which may be caused by schoolwork relationships with friends or siblings or other environmental factors such as loud noise in the home.

When is a child's headache serious?

Most headaches are just what they appear to be -- typical childhood aches But how do you distinguish between the common harmless variety and the serious type that need prompt medical attention? This is a difficult question for parents to answer because there's no sure way to tell the difference. However , several warning signs suggest that a headache may be more than just another migraine or tension headache.

Can too much screen time cause headaches?

Screen time can be both a blessing and a curse but research suggests that it may cause more problems than you think. In fact too much time in front of the computer or TV could potentially result in migraines depending on your specific symptoms.

What does it mean when a child has a headache?

Headaches are a common problem among children and adolescents Although headaches are usually not a sign of serious illness they can signal the presence of more serious conditions in some cases It is important to rule out headache-related disorders that may require medical treatment or even emergency care Keep your child's doctor informed about his headaches and follow his recommendations for diagnostic tests and medications if necessary.

Electronic devices like smartphones video games and computers emit a blue light that messes with your body's biological clock When you expose yourself to LED screens in the evening—or just before bedtime—your brain gets confused about when it's supposed to be tired The result: You get distracted or even fall asleep while using your electronic device!.

How can I cure my headache at home?

If you're suffering from a headache at home it could be the result of stress and tension caused by overwork or too much time spent staring at a computer screen So relax find some shade and drink lots of cold water But if your head pain continues to persist it would be best to see a doctor right away so he can figure out what's causing your fever.

Prevention Headaches in children

Here are some things that may help to prevent headaches or lessen the severity of headaches in children:

  • Practice healthy behaviors.Lifestyle behaviors that promote good health also may help prevent headaches for your child. These measures include getting enough sleep, being physically active, eating healthy foods, drinking water regularly, and limiting caffeine.

  • Reduce stress. Stress and busy schedules may cause headaches more often. Be alert for things that might stress your child, such as struggling to do schoolwork or difficult relationships with classmates. If your child's headaches are linked to anxiety or depression, consider talking to a doctor. A counselor helps you.

  • Keep a headache diary.A diary can help you figure out what might be causing your child's headaches. Note when the headaches began, how long they lasted, and what alleviates them.
    Write down your child's symptoms after taking any headache medication. Over time, you will learn more about your child's symptoms and be able to take specific preventive measures.

  • Avoid headache triggers.Don't eat or drink anything that seems to cause your child's headaches. You can keep a headache diary to help you identify what things trigger your child's headaches.

  • Follow your doctor's plan. If your child has frequent headaches, their doctor may prescribe preventive medication. Certain medications taken on a regular schedule, such as antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, or beta blockers, may lessen the severity of headaches. Headache frequency and severity are based on how often and severely the headaches occur.

Diagnosis Headaches in children

To learn about the nature of your child's headache, your doctor will likely look to:

  • Headache history. Your doctor asks you and your child to describe the headaches in detail, to see if there's a pattern or a common trigger. Your doctor may also ask you to keep a headache diary for a time, so you can record more details about your child's headaches, such as frequency, severity of pain and possible triggers.

  • Physical exam. The doctor performs a physical exam, including measuring your child's height, weight, head circumference, blood pressure and pulse, and examining your child's eyes, neck, head and spine.

  • Neurological exam. Your doctor checks for any problems with movement, coordination or sensation.

If your child is otherwise healthy and headaches are the only symptom, no further testing usually is needed. In a few cases, however, imaging scans and other evaluations can help pinpoint a diagnosis or rule out other medical conditions that could be causing the headaches. These tests may include:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRIs use a powerful magnet to produce detailed views of the brain. MRI scans help doctors diagnose tumors, strokes, aneurysms, neurological diseases and other brain abnormalities. An MRI can also be used to examine the blood vessels that supply the brain.

  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan. This imaging procedure uses a series of computer-directed X-rays that provide a cross-sectional view of your child's brain. This helps doctors diagnose tumors, infections and other medical problems that can cause headaches.

  • Spinal tap (lumbar puncture). If your doctor suspects that an underlying condition, such as bacterial or viral meningitis, is causing your child's headaches, he or she may recommend a spinal tap (lumbar puncture). In this procedure, a thin needle is inserted between two vertebrae in the lower back to extract a sample of cerebrospinal fluid for laboratory analysis.

Treatment Headaches in children

Usually you can treat your child's headache at home with rest, decreased noise, plenty of fluids, balanced meals and OTC pain relievers. If your child is older and has frequent headaches, learning to relax and manage stress through different forms of therapy may help, as well.


  • OTC pain relievers. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) can typically relieve headaches for your child. They should be taken at the first sign of a headache.
    Children and teenagers recovering from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms should never take aspirin. Aspirin has been linked to Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition, in such children. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns.

  • Prescription medications. Triptans, prescription drugs used to treat migraines, are effective and can be used safely in children older than 6 years of age.
    If your child experiences nausea and vomiting with migraines, your doctor may prescribe an anti-nausea drug. The medication strategy differs from child to child, however. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about nausea relief.

Caution: Overuse of medications is itself a contributing factor to headaches (medication overuse headache). Over time, painkillers and other medications may lose their effectiveness. In addition, all medications have side effects. If your child takes medications regularly, including OTC products, discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor.


While stress doesn't appear to cause headaches, it can act as a trigger for headaches or make a headache worse. Depression also can play a role. For these situations, your doctor may recommend one or more behavior therapies, such as:

  • Relaxation training. Relaxation techniques include deep breathing, yoga, meditation and progressive muscle relaxation, in which you tense one muscle at a time. Then you completely release the tension, until every muscle in the body is relaxed. An older child can learn relaxation techniques in classes or at home using books or videos.

  • Biofeedback training. Biofeedback teaches your child to control certain body responses that help reduce pain. During a biofeedback session, your child is connected to devices that monitor and give feedback on body functions, such as muscle tension, heart rate and blood pressure.
    Your child then learns how to reduce muscle tension and slow his or her heart rate and breathing. The goal of biofeedback is to help your child enter a relaxed state to better cope with pain.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy. This therapy can help your child learn to manage stress and reduce the frequency and severity of headaches. During this type of talk therapy, a counselor helps your child learn ways to view and cope with life events more positively.

Lifestyle and home remedies

OTC pain medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), are usually effective in reducing headache pain. Before giving your child pain medication, keep these points in mind:

  • Read labels carefully and use only the dosages recommended for your child.

  • Don't give doses more frequently than recommended.

  • Don't give your child OTC pain medication more than two or three days a week. Daily use can trigger a medication overuse headache, a type of headache caused by overuse of pain medications.

  • Children and teenagers recovering from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms should never take aspirin. This is because aspirin has been linked to Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition, in such children. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns.

In addition to OTC pain medications, the following can help ease your child's headache:

  • Rest and relaxation. Encourage your child to rest in a dark, quiet room. Sleeping often resolves headaches in children.

  • Use a cool, wet compress. While your child rests, place a cool, wet cloth on his or her forehead.

  • Offer a healthy snack. If your child hasn't eaten in a while, offer a piece of fruit, whole-wheat crackers or low-fat cheese. Not eating can make headaches worse.

Alternative medicine

Although they haven't been well studied, a number of dietary supplements have been suggested to help children's headaches, including:

  • Riboflavin

  • Magnesium

  • Coenzyme Q10

  • Vitamin D

Check with your child's doctor before trying any herbal products or dietary supplements to be sure they won't interact with your child's medicine or have harmful side effects.

Several alternative treatments may also be helpful for headaches in children, including:

  • Acupuncture. Acupuncture practitioners use extremely thin, disposable needles that generally cause little pain or discomfort. Some research has suggested that this treatment may help relieve headache symptoms.

  • Massage. Massage can help reduce stress and relieve tension, and may help ease headaches.

Preparing for your appointment

Typically, you make an appointment with your family doctor or your child's pediatrician. Depending on the frequency and severity of your child's symptoms, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in conditions of the brain and nervous system (neurologist).

Here's information to help you get ready for your child's appointment and to know what to expect from the doctor.

What you can do

  • Write down your child's signs and symptoms, when they occurred, and how long they lasted. It may help to keep a headache diary — listing each headache, when it happens, how long it lasts and what might have caused it.

  • Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements your child is taking.

  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.

For headaches in children, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What's the most likely cause of the symptoms?

  • Are tests needed to confirm the diagnosis?

  • What treatments are available and which do you recommend?

  • Does my child need prescription medication, or would an OTC medication work?

  • What follow-up, if any, is needed?

  • What can we do at home to lessen the pain?

  • What can we do at home to prevent headaches?

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, including:

  • When did the symptoms start? Have they changed over time?

  • How often does your child experience these symptoms?

  • How long does the headache usually last?

  • Where does the pain occur?

  • Have the symptoms been continuous or intermittent?

  • Does your child have other symptoms, such as nausea or dizziness?

  • Does anything make your child's symptoms better?

  • Does anything make the symptoms worse?

  • What treatments have you tried?

  • What medications does your child take?

  • Do other family members get headaches?

What you can do in the meantime

Until you see your child's doctor, if your child has a headache, place a cool, wet cloth on your child's forehead and encourage him or her to rest in a dark, quiet room.

Consider giving your child OTC pain medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) to ease symptoms.

Children and teenagers recovering from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms should never take aspirin. This is because aspirin has been linked to Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition, in such children. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns.

General summary

  1. Not every headache requires a trip to the doctor Most headaches can be managed with basic over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

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