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Eye and Ear Problems

Headaches in Children

Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

Migraine headaches (See Migraine Headaches) often begin during childhood or adolescence and are the most common form of headache in children.

Children's headaches can also be related to stress about school, sports, relationships, or peer pressure. Even fun activities can be overdone and cause fatigue and headaches. Many times, just talking about a problem with your child may help. Encourage your children to talk openly about problems and stress at school.

Hunger can also cause headaches in children. A daily breakfast and a nutritious after-school snack may prevent headaches. Eyestrain and lack of sleep are other possible headache causes. Children will often have headaches along with sore throats, colds, sinus problems, or other infections.

For the many children and teens who get headaches, treatment is based on the same factors as adult headache treatment: how often the headaches occur; how severe the pain is and how long it lasts; and how much the headaches disrupt normal activities. However, in children there is an increased emphasis on nondrug treatments.

Although migraines in children can be managed in much the same way as migraines in adults, less is known

about the long-term effects of migraine medications in children. Some medications are not recommended for young children.

Home Treatment

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  • If your child's doctor has prescribed a specific treatment for the child's headaches, begin treatment as soon as your child complains of pain.

  • For headaches that are mild and occur only occasionally, let your child rest quietly in a darkened room with a cool compress on his or her forehead. If rest does not relieve your child's headache, try a nonprescription medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Follow the dosage directions on the package for your child's age group. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20.

  • If your child tends to have mild headaches that occur frequently, encourage him or her to go on with normal activities. Do not allow your child to avoid chores or other activities unless his or her headache pain is moderate or severe. It is useful to "practise what you preach" in this area. When you have a headache, deal with it in a matter-of-fact way. Try to maintain your own usual activities when you have a headache, and adopt a calm approach to managing the pain. If your children see you successfully managing the impact of headaches on your life, they will be likely to do the same for themselves.

  • Talk to your child. Let him or her know you care. Extra attention and quiet time may be all that are needed to relieve the pain.

When to Call a Health Professional

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  • If a severe headache occurs with signs of encephalitis or meningitis (See Encephalitis and Meningitis), especially if your child recently had a viral illness.

  • If a headache is severe and is not relieved by relaxing or taking a nonprescription pain reliever.

  • If a headache occurs with other symptoms, such as abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting, and is not relieved by Home Treatment and taking a nonprescription pain reliever.

  • If a child's headaches occur 2 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 for your child's headaches.

  • If headaches awaken your child at night or are worse early in the morning.

  • Also see "Headache Emergencies" on See Headache Emergencies.


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