Reasons for Headaches in School-Age Children and How Parents Can Help Relieve the Pain

Monday, July 27, 2015

As the school year approaches and begins, many parents may start to hear their children complain about headaches.

According to Dr. Andrew Hershey, Headache Center Director in the division of Neurology at Cincinnati Children's, up to 75% of teenagers experience headaches.

Headaches can be triggered by a number of different things:

Diet. Does your child eat regular meals? Skipping one meal, like breakfast, can trigger a headache. It’s also important to make sure that your child is eating a well-balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. Too much caffeine and certain foods can cause a headache as well.

Sleep. Teenagers typically need 9 hours of sleep a night. Not sleeping enough or a change in sleep patterns can cause headaches.

Lack of coping skills. We all experience stress from time to time, and children and teens are no exception. If your child is under a lot of pressure from school, or experiencing big changes at home like a divorce or a big move, the lack of coping skills to stressful events may be the essential component to trigger a headache.

Family history. Your child is more likely to have headaches if a parent gets them as well.

If your child has a headache, try giving the child water and over-the-counter ibuprofen. Follow the instructions on the package for the appropriate dosage and do not give it to your child more than three times in a week. If it persists for a few days or worsens, call your child’s pediatrician.

Fortunately the majority of headaches in children are not a cause for alarm. However, there are a few instances which require a little more investigation. If your child’s headaches have become more frequent or severe, if he wakes up in the morning or the middle of the night from it, or if the headache causes vomiting, it’s best to have your child evaluated by your pediatrician.

He or she will perform a physical exam and decide if any tests need to be done. Brain MRIs and CT scans are rarely needed. If your pediatrician suspects a migraine, she might refer your child to a neurologist who is familiar with medications to help prevent and treat them.

And if your child or teen is suffering from chronic headaches and migraines, recent research by Cincinnati Children’s found that adding cognitive behavioral therapy to treatment of pediatric migraines improves relief of symptoms. The study was authored by Scott Powers, PhD and published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA).

*This information can also be found on Cincinnati Children’s  blog. For the specific post about headaches, click here

About Cincinnati Children’s

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center ranks third in the nation among all Honor Roll hospitals in U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 Best Children’s Hospitals. It is also ranked in the top 10 for all 10 pediatric specialties. Cincinnati Children’s, a non-profit organization, is one of the top three recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health, and a research and teaching affiliate of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. The medical center is internationally recognized for improving child health and transforming delivery of care through fully integrated, globally recognized research, education and innovation. Additional information can be found at www.cincinnatichildrens.org. Connect on the Cincinnati Children’s blog, via Facebook and on Twitter.

Contact Information

Tory Kennedy
513-636-5637
victoria.kennedy@cchmc.org