What is a headache?
A headache is defined as a pain that occurs anywhere in the head or neck region. They are more common among older children and teenagers. Although headaches can be concerning to a parent, they are often not associated with serious medical problems. Children, like adults, get the same type of headaches, and they may even be hereditary, meaning if you as a parent have headaches or migraines, it is possible that your children will also have them.
What are the different types of headaches?
What causes a headache?
Headaches can be triggered by a number of things, but the most common culprits in children are:
Other conditions that may cause a headache include, but are not limited to:
Very rare conditions that may cause a headache are:
These less common causes of headache are often accompanied by other signs and symptoms, like dizziness, a stiff neck, vision problems, altered or slurred speech, vomiting, nausea, confusion, lack of coordination and/or weakness in a part of the body.
How is a headache diagnosed?
A headache is diagnosed by seeing your doctor or nurse practitioner. They will take a detailed medical history and perform a physical exam on your child. They will ask you the following questions:
If necessary, they may request that your child have a CT (computerized tomography) scan or MRI (magnetic resonance imagining). These scans take a detailed picture of your child’s brain, and helps to diagnose more serious causes of headaches. Another test that may be performed is a lumbar puncture. This would be ordered if the doctor suspected a serious infection that was causing the headache.
What are the treatments for headaches?
There are a few different things you can do at home to help your child with a headache. If you think they may be hungry, give them something to eat (make sure to avoid foods with caffeine). A rest or a nap may help. Over the counter pain medications may also be useful, like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Do NOT give your child aspirin.
When to see your doctor or nurse practitioner?
It’s best to see your doctor or nurse practitioner if you child experiences a headache and:
If your child has a headache and any of the following, please seek medical attention immediately by calling 911 or visiting your nearest emergency room:
– Dr. Christina Cesareo and Dr. G Paul Dempsey
Want to talk to our pediatricians about your child’s headaches? Check out our Medical Consultation Services.
[Featured image: Patrick Denker]