Headaches

What are the most common types of headaches in children?

The most common types of headaches in children are tension headaches, migraines or headaches from infections or allergies.

  • Tension headaches tend to be uncomfortable, but they usually do not keep children doing their normal activities.
  • Migraines, on the other hand, can be associated with other symptoms, and children with migraines typically can’t do their normal activities. Migraines can cause children to feel sick or vomit and can be associated with sensitivity to light and sound.
  • Infections, such as a cold, and allergies can also cause headaches, especially if they are associated with sinus congestion. Rarely, headaches can be caused by a serious infection (like meningitis), high blood pressure, or brain tumors.

When should my child see a doctor?

Your child should seek immediate medical attention if:

  • The headache starts after a head injury
  • The headache wakes your child up from sleep
  • The headache is sudden and severe
  • The headache is associated with vomiting, neck pain, neck stiffness, double vision, a change in vision, confusion, loss of balance, or a fever
  • The headaches occur more than once per month
  • If your child is less than 3 years old
  • If your child has certain medical conditions, such as immune system problems, genetic problems, heart problems, bleeding problems, or cancer.

What can I do to make my child feel better if they don’t need to see a doctor?

If the headache is mild, you can have your child:

  • Rest in a quiet, dark room
  • Sleep
  • Try children’s pain medicine, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Never give children aspirin.

What can my child do to prevent headaches?

  • Avoid skipping meals
  • Stay hydrated
  • Avoid stress
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Avoid too much or too little sleep

What if I’m still unsure if I should take my child to the doctor?

When in doubt, call your doctor’s office or go to the emergency room to see if further evaluation and testing is necessary.