June is Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, an appropriate time to talk about headaches in children. Headaches are common in children and adolescents. Many kids will have a headache at some point during the year. The good news is that most headaches are not serious and do not cause any long-term problems. However, parents should also be aware of signs that indicate a more severe problem that requires medical attention.
Here’s what parents need to know about headaches in children:
Not all headaches are the same; one can classify them into two general categories: primary and secondary. Primary headaches include migraines and tension-type headaches. Muscle tension and stress, which may be due to physical or mental activities, often trigger primary headaches. In contrast, secondary headaches occur when other conditions are present, such as infections, tumors, or injuries to the head or neck, which can affect brain function.
As a parent, when it comes to headaches, it’s essential to know what type they have and what causes them. Doctors can diagnose the nature of your child’s headache based on symptoms, but tests are sometimes needed to determine the cause. Many different things can cause a child’s headache, including:
The following are the common types of headaches you may see in children:
The most common type of childhood headache is tension (muscle contraction) headaches, characterized by mild to moderate pain on both sides of the head or in one part of the head. They are felt without triggers like an activity or movement.
People tend to feel pressure or tightness around the head and neck. Tension headache pain may worsen when you bend over or touch your head but usually improves after resting; it usually lasts less than four hours. These typically aren’t serious and don’t require medical attention. This type of headache is commonly linked to
Migraine headaches typically involve moderate to severe pain that can last from four to 72 hours. However, many people experience warning signs such as an overall feeling of being unwell hours before the onset of pain. Certain foods, changes in sleep patterns, loud sounds, and other factors can trigger a migraine. If left untreated, migraines can lead to
A cluster headache is the most severe kind of primary headache. They occur in clusters or short periods of time, lasting from days to weeks at a time. Stress and hormone fluctuations can trigger it. Typically, children reaching puberty suffer from these headaches, and mostly boys. Several people say it feels like a burning or sharp pain, as though their eye or face is being torn apart. Cluster headaches also come with
If your child has a headache, it’s important to know the warning signs that this might be more than just a primary headache. A secondary or severe headache can signify a serious health problem, and immediate medical attention is necessary. In case of frequent, intense or unusual headaches, a doctor visit may be critical as they may indicate an underlying condition such as:
To start, a doctor will review your child’s symptoms and medical history. They may also conduct a physical exam to rule out any other possible causes for your headache, such as an infection or injury. Below are the signs when to worry about a headache that may root in a more serious condition:
Headaches do not only cause pain; they may cause children to miss school and social activities, too. Fortunately, some at-home and medical treatments can help relieve the pain and discomfort of a headache.
Place warm or ice compress on your child’s forehead to help relieve a headache. This treatment works best if combined with a warm compress to bring down swelling and inflammation caused by headaches.
Meanwhile, you may use an ice pack if your child has been exposed to heat or outdoor activities such as playing sports or gardening; otherwise, use heat if your child feels cold indoors or in an air-conditioned environment.
A gentle massage can help reduce pain and blood flow in your child’s head. Use long strokes on your child’s forehead and temples in circular motions to help relieve tension in those areas of the head. Try to apply lavender essential oil to your child’s temples and back of the neck every 30 minutes until symptoms subside (make sure not to let essential oils come into contact with your child’s eyes).
When your child has a headache, ensure they get plenty of rest in a dark room with no noise. Stress relief in the form of deep breathing can also help relieve symptoms. Most importantly, elevate your child’s feet above their heart level as much as possible. This can help decrease blood flow through the brain and relieve pressure on nerve endings in the head.
Provide them with an OTC pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Make sure not to exceed the recommended dosage; always follow package instructions carefully. Don’t give more than one medicine at a time. And never give aspirin to anyone under age 20 because it can cause Reye’s syndrome in young people. Don’t forget to check with your doctor or pharmacist before giving any medication to your child.
Drinking water before, during, and after the headache can help relieve it. Dehydration can worsen headaches, so encourage your child to drink lots of fluids throughout the day. Water removes toxins from the body and prevents dehydration. Make sure they avoid soda and other drinks high in caffeine.
When it comes to your child’s headaches, don’t ignore the signs. Some symptoms may indicate something more serious, especially if it happens frequently. At CMCFresno, we can help you figure out what is causing their pain, address any underlying causes and provide treatment to relieve it.
Call us today at (559) 455-1500 or schedule an appointment online.