Headaches are common not only among adults, but also in children. In fact, it occurs in more than 90 percent of school-aged children. Although occasional headaches may not be alarming, parents still need to observe when a headache can just be a passing pain, and when medical treatment is already necessary.
There are many causes of headaches in children. If you have a family history of migraines, your child may also have them because it tends to run in families. Active play may sometimes result to accidental bumps, which can cause headaches. However, if your child fell hard on his head, or if you notice that his headache has increased in severity, consult your doctor immediately.
Many common childhood illnesses are also accompanied by headaches. These include common respiratory illnesses like colds and flu, as well as ear infections, and urinary tract infections. A child may also have headaches due to a food ingredient. Monosodium glutamate or MSG is a seasoning, and it can trigger headaches. Common foods that contain MSG include bacon and hotdogs. Food items with caffeine can also cause headaches, and it can be found in soda, chocolate, coffee, and tea.
Children experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety may also get headaches. These may stem from issues at home and at school. Some headaches may also be triggered by environmental conditions like changes in weather, loud noises, and even bright lights.
There are several types of headaches, but the symptoms are different for each type. Migraines occur in about 5% of school-aged kids. It is characterized by pounding or throbbing pain on one, or both sides of the head. A migraine may also be accompanied by other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and sensitivity to smell, light and sound.
Another type of headache is known as muscle contraction headaches, or tension headaches. A child may experience pressing tightness on both sides of the head, and the pain can either be dull or aching. It can be distinguished from a migraine because this type of headache is not associated, with any nausea or vomiting. Tension headaches last for as little as half an hour, or may go on for several days.
Migraines and tension type headaches can occur frequently in a child. A child is said to have a chronic daily headache if he has very frequent headaches. A headache that lasts more than 15 days a month, for more than three months is already considered as chronic daily headache. It can also occur among individuals, who frequently take prescription, or non-prescription pain medications.
A cluster headache is the least common type of headache in children. A child with a cluster headache may complain of a sharp, stabbing pain on one side of the head. Although it can only last for three hours or less, the symptoms can be disabling.
It is rare that a child’s headache is an indication of a more serious condition. However, parents need to bring a child to a doctor, if he has a headache for at least once a month, or if it keeps him out of school. Parents should also seek consultation if the headache occurred after an injury, or a blow to the head. Likewise, you need to have a consultation, if the headache disturbs your child’s sleep, or if it causes persistent vomiting or visual changes. A headache accompanied by fever and neck pain, also needs to be properly evaluated by a physician.
If you notice that your child has frequent headaches, it may be advisable that you keep a diary. Record the time and date when the headache occurred, how long it lasted, and possible causes. By doing so, you may be able to identify possible triggers, which you can have your child avoid later on. If your child is too stressed out, try to probe the causes, and help him address these issues.
Headaches can indeed cause various discomforts in a child. Parents then need to take steps, so that a child can get proper treatment when needed. If the headaches are caused by anxiety or depression, your doctor may even recommend counseling for your child. The important thing is for parents to know when to seek for help, so that steps can already be taken to attain relief.