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Health Information For Parents
A headache is pain felt somewhere in the head or neck.They’re very common in kids, and have a wide range of causes and many levels of severity.
It’s important to understand how to recognize when a headache is a passing pain and when it’s something more and needs medical care.
Two common kinds of headaches that kids get are tension headaches and migraines.
Tension headaches happen when stressed-out head or neck muscles squeeze too hard. This causes pain often described as:
Migraine headaches are less common. They can cause:
Most migraines last from 30 minutes to several hours. Some can last as long as a couple of days. They can feel worse when someone is doing physical activity or is around light, smells, or loud sounds.
Young kids with headaches may not be able to say what hurts. Parents may notice that they are cranky and less active. They may throw up, or look pale or flushed.
Headaches are thought to be caused by changes in chemicals, nerves, or blood vessels in the area. These changes send pain messages to the brain and bring on a headache.
Most headaches are related to:
Headaches are common in kids and teens. Headaches (especially migraines) often run in families. So if a parent, grandparent, or other family member gets them, there’s a chance that a child may get them too. Some kids are more sensitive to headache triggers than other kids.
Your doctor will do an exam and get your child’s
to help see what might be causing the headaches. The doctor will ask about:
To help pin down the problem, doctors often ask parents — and older kids and teens — to keep a headache diary. In the diary, list:
The doctor will do a complete neurological exam. This can involve looking in the eyes, testing nerves, and having your child do things like walk or touch his or her nose. To look for medical problems that might be causing headaches, the doctor may order:
Treatment for headaches depends on what the doctor thinks is the likely cause. But you can care for most everyday headaches at home.
To help ease the pain, have your child:
Make sure your child has had something to eat and drink. Kids with migraines often just want to sleep and may feel better when they wake up. A big part of treating migraines is avoiding the triggers that can cause them. That’s where a headache diary can be helpful.
You also can give your child an over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Read the label to make sure that you give the right dose at the right time. If you have any questions about how much to give, check with the doctor. And if your child is under age 2 or has other medical problems, call your doctor before giving any pain reliever. Your doctor can tell you whether you should give it and, if so, how much (based on weight and age).
Never give aspirin to kids or teens unless the doctor advises you to. Aspirin can cause Reye syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition.
If your child gets migraine headaches often, the doctor may prescribe a medicine to take when they start or daily to try to prevent them.
Discuss pain management with your doctor. This might include trying things that don’t involve medicine, such as:
When your child has a splitting headache, it’s easy to worry. But headaches rarely are a symptom of something serious.
Call the doctor if your child’s headaches:
Also note whether other symptoms happen with the headaches. This can help the doctor find what might be causing them. Call the doctor if your child has a headache and:
Headaches are rarely a sign of something serious. Here’s what to do if your child has a headache.
Migraine headaches can cause severe pain and other symptoms. Read about migraine causes, treatments, prevention tips, and lots more.
Lots of kids have headaches from time to time. Find out more about headaches in this article for kids.
Find out what the experts have to say.
When your body is injured in some way, your nerves send messages to your brain about what’s going on. Your brain then makes you feel pain. Read our pain-free article for kids.
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Giving kids medicine safely can be complicated. Here’s how you can help treat your child’s illness while you prevent dangerous reactions.
Almost everyone gets headaches. So how do you know if a headache is just a passing pain or something more?
If you’ve ever had a migraine, you know that these headaches can cause severe pain and other symptoms. Read about migraine causes, treatments, prevention tips, and lots more.
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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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