Headaches in Children

While headaches are common occurrences in childhood, certain types of headaches can signal something more ominous.

Headaches are something we usually associate with adulthood, but they can and do show up in children, and for many reasons. The child may have a viral illness, be fatigued, or even stressed out. Fortunately, headaches rarely signal anything ominous like a brain tumor, explains pediatrician Dr. Paul Theissen. “If we look at the overall picture of headaches in childhood, only a small percentage actually have anything physically wrong inside their head. The vast majority of headaches in younger children will not be related to any mass that needs to be treated in any specific way. (However) I think headaches in any child under 5 years of age should be seen and addressed by a physician.”

You may be surprised to learn that, according to statistics, 40% of children have had a headache by age seven, and by age fifteen 75% have coped with headaches, with 4% of those being migraine sufferers. According to Dr. Theissen “the signs of a headache that might be a migraine include headaches that are associated with vomiting, where it’s severe and concentrated over one half of the head, and it might be associated with transitory visual loss or complaints of some sort. These are indications that your child might be suffering from a migraine headache.” It1s recommended that, for children who suffer from migraines, the pain be treated with acetaminophen as soon as they complain of a headache. Waiting too long can just make the headache worse and more difficult to treat.

No matter what type of headache your child is suffering from it’s important that you don’t dismiss it, says pediatrician Dr. Marvin Gans. “It isn’t fair to a child to deny the fact they have a headache. Instead we should be sympathetic and help reassure them that the headache will go away shortly.”

Finally, headaches that show up in the early morning and are accompanied by vomiting should be seen by a doctor to determine whether or not your child has a more serious problem, adds Dr. Gans. “If your child is having persistent headaches, or prolonged headaches or if they interfere with their daily life, or affect their balance and gait, then it is time to see a doctor.”


Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.

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