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Headaches In Children: Signs, Symptoms And Remedies

  • Headaches aren’t confined to adults— children can get them too. But because the experience of headaches in children can be different to adults, they can sometimes go unnoticed.

Symptoms

A child’s headache or migraine might be accompanied by nausea/feeling sick or an upset tummy. It can impact their day, but they can often recover quickly. Like adults, children can develop different types of headaches, including migraines and stress-related (tension) headaches.

Migraines

Migraines can cause a dull or throbbing pain which may be all over the head, or worse on one side. They are sometimes accompanied by symptoms of dizziness, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and sensitivity to light. Migraine headaches tend to get worse with activity.

Tension headaches

Tension headaches can feel like a tight band around the head. It usually causes a dull, steady pain on both sides of the head, but may be felt at the front and back of the head. Unlike migraines, tension headaches are not usually associated with nausea and vomiting, and are not worsened by normal activity. 

Cluster headaches

Cluster headaches occur in groups with each episode lasting from minutes to hours. These headaches may occur once every other day or as frequently as eight times a day. They are rare in childhood, and usually occur for the first time in adolescence. Cluster headaches may be accompanied by lots of tears (without actually crying), stuffy and/or runny nose, restlessness or agitation. 

What causes a child’s headache

Headaches can be caused by:

  • being stressed
  • lack of sleep
  • dehydration
  • skipping meals
  • common colds and flu, and their complications such as sinusitis
  • eye problems, such as straining to read
  • prolonged screen use
  • excessive physical activity

Headaches in children: when to worry

See your doctor immediately if your child’s headaches:

  • are getting worse
  • are more frequent than once per week
  • wake your child from sleep or are worse in the morning
  • are associated with vision changes, vomiting, or high fevers
  • disrupt their school, home, or social life
  • may be caused by stress and you require further help to manage them

Take your child to the emergency department or call 000 if your child has:

  • neck stiffness associated with a headache
  • headache as a result of a bad injury
  • any other symptoms that concern you

How to relieve headaches in kids

If your child has a headache, you can try the following to make them feel more comfortable.

What to do

  • Have the child lie down quietly in a darkened room
  • Apply a cool, moistened towel or cloth to the forehead
  • Encourage sleep—the body’s natural way of healing 
  • Invite them to eat or drink (avoid caffeinated drinks) 
  • Ask them to take deep breaths.
  • Give paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • Try giving Nurofen for Children – it contains ibuprofen as the active ingredient to help relieve the pain associated with headache

What to avoid

  • Skipping meals
  • Dehydration
  • Irregular bedtimes and inadequate sleep
  • Caffeinated drinks, which can cause dehydration

How to relieve a headache in children

Some ways to help children with headaches include relaxation techniques and even the use of a headache diary, which will also be useful to keep track of your child’s headaches and identify possible triggers. Some studies suggest riboflavin (vitamin B12) and coenzyme Q10 (an antioxidant) supplements may help with headaches.*

Giving your child pain relieving medicine can help. Try giving Nurofen for Children – it contains ibuprofen as the active ingredient to help relieve the pain associated with headache.

 

*Kacperski J., et al. Ther Adv Neurol Disord 2016. MacLennan S., et al. J Child Neurol 2008. Condo M., et al. J Headache Pain 2009. Maizels M., et al.Headache 2004. Hershey A., et al. Headache 2007.

This article is for general information only and not intended as a substitute for medical advice. All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health-related matters, always consult your healthcare professional.

Always read the label and follow the directions for use. Incorrect use could be harmful.

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