Family Nutrition & Health
When your child complains of a headache, it’s probably not serious. In most cases, kids develop headaches due to infection, a minor head trauma or stress and anxiety. Be sure you know the root cause of the pain – and take action to ease it.
Tension headaches are actually the most common type of headache in children, most likely caused by emotional factors and stress.
Your child may describe the pain as feeling like a tight headband, or as spreading out around their whole head. Tension headaches aren’t usually associated with nausea or vomiting.
•Talk to your child about any stressful situations they’re having at school or camp,
and about sports competition and family friction.
Viral and bacterial infections can also commonly bring on childhood headaches. The headaches can often run throughout the course of the illness, but if they get a new headache, or if one comes on suddenly accompanied by fever, lethargy and stiff neck, contact a doctor right away. Also get the child to a doctor if they have nausea, vomiting, muscular coordination challenges, weakness, seizures, and personality changes.
Make it feel better
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications, including acetaminophen and ibuprofen, are usually effective in reducing headache pain. Remember:
• Read labels carefully and use only the dosage and frequency recommended
• Don’t give your child OTC pain medication more than two or three days a
week or you risk they experiencing a rebound headache caused by overuse of
• Use caution when giving aspirin to children or teenagers. While aspirin
is approved for use in children older than age 2, those who are recovering
from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms should never take aspirin because it
has been linked to Reye’s syndrome. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns
about whether or not to give you child aspirin.
Also try the following ways to ease a headache:
• Rest and relaxation. Set your child up in a dark, quiet room and encourage
them to sleep.
• Apply a cool, wet compress. Soothes and calms.
• Provide a healthy snack. Headaches can also be caused by hunger. Offer your
child a piece of fruit or whole grain crackers and low-fat cheese.
Avoid the pain
You can reduce the severity of your children’s headaches, or even prevent them, by:
• Practicing healthy behaviors. Be sure your child is getting plenty of sleep,
physical activity, healthy meals and snacks, and little or no caffeine. Extend
that lifestyle to everyone in the family!
• Reducing stress. Busy schedules, heavy schoolwork loads and peer pressure
can increase headache frequency. Consider talking to a counselor if you
cannot help reduce stress in your child’s life.
• Keeping a headache diary. Record when each headache starts, how long
each lasts and what eases the pain. This information will help you take
preventive measures to deflect future headaches.
• Avoiding triggers. Avoid any food or drinks, including those that contain
caffeine, that seem to trigger headaches. Your headache diary can help with
Teens and headaches
For the most part, teens, your changing hormones are to blame for your headaches. Boys experience more headaches before puberty; girls usually suffer with them after the onset of puberty, mostly a week or two before your menstrual cycle start.
But don’t blame ALL of your head pain on hormones. Certain foods can trigger it too – like nuts, chocolate, and the ingredients in processed foods. If you’re overtired, not eating right or regularly, super stressed, anxious or working out too much or not at all, your head may bang all too often. Make some simple changes and heal your own pain.
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