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Teen holding her head in pain

Kids Get Headaches, Too

By Dr. Ryan Williams, Neurology

Headaches aren’t just a grown-up problem. Kids can get headaches, too. Tiredness, stress, pressure at home and school or conflict with loved ones or a friend can all trigger a headache.

Most headaches in children aren’t caused by a serious medical condition, but if your child’s headache worsens or occurs frequently you should contact your pediatrician.

There are various types of headaches. The two most common types in children are migraine and tension headaches. Both can be increased by emotional or physical stressors.

The main difference between tension and migraine headaches is that migraines are usually accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, vomiting and dizziness. Over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen can help ease the pain associated with most headaches.

Other things to try:

  • Apply an ice pack
  • Have your child practice slow deep breathing
  • Have your child take a nap or rest in a dark room

Studies show that 8 to 23 percent of children between the ages of 11 and 15 have suffered a migraine. The percentage rises with age. Boys have more headaches pre-puberty, whereas girls are reported to have a higher incidence during and after puberty.

Taking over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen more than three times a week for a headache can cause medication overuse headaches also known as rebound headaches. Parents should be careful not to overuse these medications.

To help prevent headaches, make sure your child:

  • Has a regular sleep schedule and isn’t staying up too late
  • Drinks plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated
  • Schedules some downtime in every day
  • Eats three balanced meals a day

Call your doctor right away if your child’s headache is:

  • Accompanied by a fever, stiff neck or vomiting
  • Interrupting his sleep
  • Awakening him from sleep
  • Causing weakness in one arm or leg
  • Affecting his balance, coordination and/or vision

Be sure to talk to your child’s pediatrician if you suspect your child is having migraines. Some children may need preventive prescription medication.

Watch | More from Dr. Ryan Williams in this WVEC Parenting Segment.

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About Children's Specialty Group

About Children's  Specialty Group Children's Specialty Group is the only pediatric multi-specialty practice serving southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. The physicians of Children's Specialty Group base their practices at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters and serve as faculty in the Department of Pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School. Learn more about our specialists here.

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