The Headache of Children Headaches

Most parents will admit that their children are headaches from time to time, but when the children themselves start to suffer from headaches of their own, it can be concerning and confusing for parents. Up to 75 percent of kids report having at least one headache per month. Is it serious, or nothing to worry about? Should parents dole out aspirin or not? What if the headaches are recurring, and with the majority of kids having at least one a month, what would be considered “recurring,” anyway?

Headaches in children can be difficult to diagnose because they often have trouble accurately describing the type of pain they’re experiencing, and they may not be able to relate the headache to any specific factors. Parents play an important role in helping physicians pinpoint the causes because they often keep a close eye on their child’s behavior. There can be many causes for headaches in children.  The common cold, flu, sinus infection and toothaches can all cause the head to ache. Stress and eye strain are other triggers. In most cases, headaches are not serious and can be treated with doses of non-aspirin pain relievers.

If your child suffers from very severe, debilitating headaches, especially over a long period of time, it’s wise to consult a physician. There’s a chance that the headaches could actually be migraines, which are far more common than most parents realize. Migraines are actually more common than both asthma and diabetes in children.  About five percent of elementary school kids get migraine headaches. It affects girls more than boys and in most cases prevention is more effective than treatment. The key to prevention is to determine potential outside factors that could be causing the adverse health condition.  If loud noises, bright lights, certain foods, emotional stress or television seem to be at the root of the migraine attacks, it’s easy to thwart future sufferings by avoiding those triggers. Initially it can be tricky to nail down the exact foundation of the headache or migraine.  Many physicians recommend keeping a headache diary that records the symptoms, the date and time of each attack, and the events that lead up to the episode.

If your child has an occasional headache with no other accompanying symptoms, it’s probably nothing serious. Mild nausea is common with severe headaches, so don’t become too alarmed if your child feels sick to his stomach but call the doctor if vomiting occurs. Other symptoms to watch out for in addition to or following a headache:

  • Listlessness
  • Weakness of the arms or legs
  • Decreased alertness
  • Inability to focus the eyes
  • Vision problems
  • Fever

Should any of these occur, see the doctor. There’s still a good chance that it’s nothing too serious, but the headache and the accompanying symptoms may need medical intervention to be treated.

It’s a good standard rule of thumb to see the doctor any time you feel overly concerned or need peace of mind. Same goes for headaches. If your child starts suffering from headaches with no obvious cause for you treat, go ahead and make an appointment.  But keep in mind that the vast majority of childhood headaches are nothing to worry about.

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