Many children and adolescents experience at least on headache in a year. These are often different from headaches adults experience, thus parents often fail to notice the issue.
It is important to note that headaches including migraines among children are relatively shorter in span. The headaches start shortly where the child rapidly becomes pale and lethargic and often feels sick and starts to vomit. In most cases, children are able to recover quickly. In studies conducted, the headache only lasts half an hour where the child feels well and plays as usual. In addition, the headaches can also affect the stomach which is why tummy or stomach ache is also a usual complaint.
Children who experience headaches often skip their packed lunch or have not drunk anything all day. The ideal way for parents to prevent headaches is to make sure that they have regular meals and beverages as well as getting enough sleep.
It is recommended to provide children with a hearty breakfast so that even if they miss out on lunch, they are prepared for the day. It is also beneficial to put children to bed at a fixed time every evening.
Sports are also considered as a trigger for headaches in children. This might be due to dehydration and the effect on blood sugar. Ensuring proper hydration with water and sucking on glucose tablets before and during a particular sport can greatly help in preventing headaches after. In addition, it is also best to provide the child with a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack.
Oftentimes, headaches can be due to emotional issues. In most cases, headaches occur during times of stress such as being bullied or anxiety on adult issues such as parents on the verge of splitting.
It is useful to keep track of the headaches using a diary. Once the child is old enough, he/she can keep their own diary. This is beneficial in determining specific triggers for the headaches.
Always note down when the headaches occur. List any event that is different from the usual routine or other relevant details such as missed meals, staying up late, sports or emotionally distressing events such as fights with friends or parents or a taxing exam at school.
Once the possible causes have been identified, these must be avoided by the child over the next months to check if the headaches are prevented.
Oftentimes, there are simple steps that are enough to help the child go through a headache or migraine.
- Let the child lie in a dark, quiet room
- Instruct the child to breathe easily and deeply
- Place a cool, damp cloth across the eyes or forehead
- Encourage the child to sleep to help with the recovery
- Encourage to drink or eat something
In case the child needs medications, administer as soon as possible after the headache started. Ibuprofen and paracetamol are both safe to use and work well for children with headaches.
When to seek further care
Just like with adults, most cases of headaches in children are not serious. They can be managed at home with remedies available in the drugstore and avoided with proper food, drink and sleep.
If worried about the headache, set an appointment with a doctor. This is advisable if the pain medications do not work or the headaches disrupt with school so that proper assessment can be carried out.