A number of factors can cause a child to develop a headache, such as stress, lack of sleep, skipped meals and certain medications. Other times a child may suffer from a headache due to a common illness or infection, such as a cold or flu. And in serious cases, head trauma or an underlying condition such as meningitis could be causing the child’s headache. That’s why it’s important for parents to pay close attention to their child’s headache patterns.
Although it’s easy for parents to worry, most headaches in children are rarely a sign of something serious. However, parents should contact their child’s pediatrician if the child has unexplained or recurring headaches over a short period of time or on a regular basis.
Parents should also notify their pediatrician if the child’s headache is accompanied by one or any combination of these symptoms:
- Double vision, weakness in a limb or loss of balance
- Disabling pain that does not improve with over-the-counter pain medication
- Interrupted sleep
- Decreased level of alertness
- Change in personality
To help pinpoint the causes of your child’s headaches, parents should keep a diary of their child’s symptoms. Track when headaches occur, how long they last, the severity of the headache and if anything provides relief. Over time, your notes can help you and your pediatrician understand the child’s symptoms to reach a diagnosis and proper treatment plan.
Your child’s pediatrician may also ask you a series of questions to determine the source of your child’s headaches:
- Do the headaches follow a pattern or do they change over time?
- Has your child recently suffered a serious injury?
- What seems to help or worsen headaches?
- Does your child take any medications or have any past medical issues?
- Does your child have allergies?
- Is there a history of headaches in your family?
In many cases, a child’s headache may be relieved at home with simple care. Over-the-counter pain medications, rest and avoiding those triggers that prompt headaches may be enough to ease the pain.
Remember, headaches are not always a symptom of something more serious. However, parents should be mindful of the types of headaches their child has and how frequently they occur. If you suspect something is wrong or not normal, always contact your pediatrician for an appointment.