Headaches in Children: Causes and Treatment
69% of children suffer from at least one headache during childhood. While headaches in children can be the result of a number of factors, in most cases there is no reason for alarm.
However, as parents we should always be alert, as some cases can be related to serious illness.
Factors that produce headaches in children:
There are two types of headaches, depending on their origin: Primary and secondary headaches. In general, primary headaches are the result of some change in the brain. This can be a a chemical change, the dialating of blood vessels, or muscle tension.
Secondary headaches appear as the symptom of another illness. Some of the most common illnesses include:
- Infectious illnesses.
- Non infectious illnesses like the flu, cold and any other viral illness.
- Trauma to the brain.
- Allergy or sensitivy to a certain food.
- Physical exhaustion.
- Hunger or dehydration.
- Issues with teeth or gums.
- Consequences of medication or toxins.
It’s very important not to try to diagnose your child yourself. Rather, you should take your child to see a pediatrician for an examination to find out the cause.
While it’s not common, there is also a possibility that headaches in children are a symptom of a more serious illness.
Therefore, if your child suffers from an intense headache for an extended period of time, see a doctor. A medical professional will go over your little one’s medical history and carry out a thorough examination.
You should do the same if your child’s headache is accompanied by any of the following symptoms:
- Dizziness or blurred vision.
- A stiff neck or weakness in some part of the body.
- Speech loss, difficulty pronouncing words, or mixing up word order.
- Mental confusion.
How to take care of your child at home
As we’ve seen, headaches can be the result of a number of factors. With that in mind, you can increase the care you provide your child at home to reduce symptoms in the following ways:
- It’s important to provide your child with a space where he or she can rest comfortably. Your little one will probably want to lie down and perhaps go to sleep. When someone has a headache, noise and lights can often make things even worse. Therefore, we recommend somewhere quiet and dark.
- You should never force your child to make an effort physically while suffering from a headache.
- Sometimes a headache can be related to hunger or dehydration. If that’s the case, then it’s very important that you do your best to feed your child well and provide plenty of water. In doing so, we prevent more serious issues.
- You can administer pain killers when symptoms begin to appear if your child has already experienced intense episodes. This is especially true if your child has received a diagnosis of migraine. Of course, you should always get an okay from your doctor before administering pain killers.
- If your child is very uncomfortable, you can try to provide some sort of distraction to entertain him or her. It may help your little one forget about the pain for a while.
Advice for preventing headaches in children:
- If the reason behind your child’s headache is stress or tension, then it’s important that you establish routines and discipline. This can help take care of the stress and tension, and thus prevent headaches from appearing. We suggest setting a schedule for homework, exercise, relaxing, sleeping, etc.
- Discovering potential triggers to these crisis. For example, do the episodes always occur after school? Do they follow physical activity? Could they have to do with something your child ate beforehand? Asking yourself these types of questions can help you determine the cause and take measures to prevent further headaches.
- Avoid closed spaces with a lot of people as this can be overwhelming.
- Take your child to see an eye doctor. We recommend getting your child an appointment with an ophthalmologist at the beginning of every school year. That way, you can be sure your child isn’t suffering from any vision difficulties. And of course, if the doctor detects a problem, then you can do what’s necessary to prevent any headaches that have to do with poor eyesight.
- Prevent exposure to the sun without protection.
If your child’s condition doesn’t improve despite your attempts to intervene, another doctor’s visit may be necessary. Then your child’s pediatrician can carry out tests and evaluate your child’s specific symptoms to get to the bottom of the issue.