• Ask the Pediatrician

    Q: My 11-year-old son has started complaining of headaches. Should I be concerned, and what should I give him for them?


    A lot of pediatric patients have headaches. The vast majority of headaches are nothing to worry about. But if your child’s headaches are frequent or severe, it’s best to have him evaluated by your pediatrician.

    Here are some possible causes of occasional headaches:

    Inadequate Hydration

    One of the big reasons for headaches is inadequate hydration – not taking in enough liquids. This is especially true as the weather gets warmer and kids become more active outside and lose liquids through sweating. If your child has become more active and begins to complain of headaches, the cure might be as simple as having him drink more water.

    Blood Pressure

    Elevated blood pressure can cause headaches.

    Vision Problems

    Your child might be getting headaches from straining to see the board at the front of the classroom.

    Family History

    Do you have a family history of headaches? Many times, if a parent gets headaches, a child might as well.

    Lifestyle

    Does your child eat a healthy diet (plenty of fresh fruits and veggies and breakfast each morning) and get exercise? Does he drink a lot of caffeinated sodas or other beverages? Certain foods and caffeine can trigger headaches.

    Lack of sleep can cause headaches. Kids in middle and high school typically need at least 10 to 12 hours a night. Fewer than 10 hours of sleep each night is not really enough for kids of that age.

    Is your child under a lot of stress or pressure at school? Have things changed at home recently, such as a divorce or a move or other big changes in your life?

    The Headache Center at Cincinnati Children's expertly diagnoses and treats a variety of headache disorders, including migraine and tension headaches.

  • When To Be More Concerned

    Child holding head during headache.

    Does your child wake up in the morning or in the middle of the night with a headache? Does the headache cause vomiting?

    These symptoms require a little more investigation. Your pediatrician would perform a physical exam and decide what, if any, tests need to be done. Brain MRIs and CT scans are rarely needed.

    If your doctor thinks the headaches are migraines, your child might be referred to a neurologist who is familiar with medications to prevent the headaches or methods to treat them more effectively.

    Have Questions?

    If you have a question for the pediatrician, email youngandhealthy@cchmc.org

  • Nick DeBlasio, MD.
    Nick DeBlasio, MD, works in the Pediatric Primary Care Clinic at Cincinnati Children's and is the president of the Cincinnati Pediatric Society.