Headaches are very common in children and can significantly impact their quality of life.

While headaches in children are often caused by less serious conditions like stress or dehydration, sometimes headaches can indicate more serious medical issues.

As a parent, it’s important to understand the common causes of headaches in children, how they are diagnosed, and treatment options available.

If your child has regular headaches, you can book an appointment to see me in clinic.

Overview of headaches in children

Headaches in children can vary greatly in frequency, severity, and underlying cause. They may occur occasionally or frequently.

Headaches can range from being mild to debilitating. Some children experience headaches occasionally in response to things like lack of sleep, illness, or stress. Other children may have chronic headaches stemming from medical conditions like migraines or vision problems.

Determining the cause and finding effective treatment is therefore key.

Testimonials

Patient’s parent via iWantGreatCare.org, for headaches

“We’ve known Dr Ramnik Mathur for over a year now. We first consulted him for our younger son. This time it was for our eldest son who had complaints of frequent headache, hair loss and sometimes constipation.

We are very pleased with Dr Mathur diagnosis. My son hasn’t had any such issues now.

We personally found Dr Mathur as quite approachable, humble and perfect in his dealing with my children.

I found him as an excellent Paediatrician and would recommend to anyone seeking a paediatric consultation for their young children.”

Symptoms of headaches in children

Things to look out for if your child has ongoing headaches are:

  • Pain or ache in the head – may be on one or both sides
  • Throbbing sensation
  • Tightness or pressure around the head
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in vision
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability or crankiness

Causes of headaches in children

There are many potential causes of headaches in children, such as:

  • Stress, anxiety, depression
  • Lack of sleep
  • Dehydration
  • Hunger
  • Illness, fever
  • Head injury
  • Medication side effects
  • Migraines
  • Vision problems
  • Jaw clenching or teeth grinding
  • Sinus infection

Diagnosis

To diagnose the cause of headaches, I will review the child’s medical history and perform a physical exam. I’ll ask questions about the frequency, location, severity, and any known triggers of headaches. Sometimes, I may need to order additional tests, such as:

  • Blood tests
  • CT scan or MRI – to rule out serious causes like a tumour
  • Eye exam – to check for vision problems
  • Neurological exam – to assess nervous system function

Keeping a headache diary noting symptoms, triggers, and timing can help me make an accurate diagnosis.

Migraines, tension headaches, and rebound headaches (from medication overuse) are some common headache types in children.

Treatment options

There are numerous ways to treat a headache, depending on the type and cause. I may recommend things like:

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers like paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • Staying hydrated
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Stress management techniques
  • Migraine prescription medications
  • Advice for vision correction with glasses

For migraine headaches, preventive daily medications may be prescribed to reduce frequency and severity of headaches.

Children should be screened for medication overuse which can cause “rebound headaches”.

Lifestyle Changes and Coping Strategies

Making certain lifestyle adjustments can help prevent and better cope with headaches:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Get regular exercise
  • Limit screen time
  • Practice relaxation techniques
  • Establish consistent sleep routine
  • Eat regular, healthy meals
  • Identify and avoid headache triggers
  • Use a headache diary to track symptoms
  • Apply cold compress on head or neck
  • Dim lights during headache
  • Take a short nap to relieve headache

Support Resources

If your child suffers from chronic headaches, it can be helpful to connect with support resources:

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I tell if my child’s headaches are serious?

Headaches that are sudden, severe, or accompanied by fever, neck pain or rash can indicate a serious cause like meningitis. Seek emergency care for any alarming headache symptoms.

Can headaches be prevented in children?

While not all headaches can be prevented, avoiding triggers like lack of sleep, dehydration, and hunger can reduce frequency. Lifestyle changes like regular exercise and a healthy diet can also help.

Do headaches run in families?

Yes, headaches and migraines tend to have a genetic component. If parents have a history of headaches, their children are more likely to experience them too.

Can food triggers cause headaches in children?

Yes, foods like processed meats, aged cheese, chocolate, caffeine, and MSG have been shown to trigger headaches in some children. Keeping a food diary can help identify dietary headache triggers.

When should I take my child to see a paediatrician or neurologist?

See a paediatrician or neurologist if your child has frequent headaches that are severe, long-lasting, or not relieved by over-the-counter medications. We can help diagnose the specific type of headache and explore preventive treatment options.

Summary

Headaches are very common in children and can disrupt their daily activities. While most headaches are not serious, recurrent headaches may indicate an underlying condition that requires medical treatment.

By sharing headache symptoms, triggers, and patterns with me we can work closely to find effective solutions for managing headaches. With the right treatment plan, most children can get headache relief and prevent future episodes.