Headache is a common occurrence across age groups. It is not unusual for children above the age of four to get mild to moderate episodes of headache. There could be multiple triggers of a headache and they are broadly classified into primary and secondary headache. Primary headaches are the kind of headache which appears on its own like tension induced headaches or migraines. It is usually easy to differentiate between a migraine and a tension headache. A headache caused by tension and stress is usually brief, lasting between 30 minutes and 2 hours. While migraines could last upto a week and are more severe than tension induced headaches. A migraine can also cause nausea, vomiting, and light sensitivity, which can interfere with your child’s daily activities. Tension headaches, on the other hand, are milder and do not disrupt your child’s routine. Migraines are less frequent than tension headaches.
Cluster headache is a third type of headache that occurs in children over the age of ten. This type of headache can last for weeks and may reoccur around the same time of year. Some of the most common symptoms of this type of headache are severe pain on one side of the head, usually behind one eye, swelling of the forehead and eyelids, and so on.
A biological brain disorder can also manifest as a primary headache with no other symptoms. Secondary headache, on the other hand, occurs when your child is suffering from an ear or eye infection or some kind of upper respiratory illness. Furthermore, a headache, along with fever and body aches, could indicate the onset of a viral infection. Other causes of headache in your children include tooth infection, sinusitis, and headache injury. As headache can be caused by varied reasons, our first goal should be to identify its underlying trigger. After we establish the reason behind our munchkin’s throbbing headache, we need to decide the course of treatment. However, if your child has frequent bouts of severe headache, it is strongly advised that you consult a doctor to ensure that there is nothing serious going on. Only a trained medical practitioner can help you detect the source of your child’s headache.
Anything from genetics, hormones, diet, dehydration, to stress and medication can cause a headache in your child. Recurrent headaches should not be ignored because they can lead to serious consequences such as behavioural issues, slow learning, or mental health issues such as depression.
In this blog, let us try to understand different ways of dealing with your child’s headache.
Before proceeding, it is important to note that the purpose of this blog is to provide our readers with basic information, and the information provided here should not be used in place of a proper medical consultation.
Ways to manage your child’s headache at home
- Create a calming environment : One of the foremost things to do is to ensure that your child is getting enough rest and is adequately hydrated. If their headache is making them sensitive to light and loud noise, create a calming environment for them. Draw the curtains, dim the lights and lower the volume of your television and let them rest for a couple of hours.
- Soothe their body : Give them a hot bath if they have tension headaches or migraines. You can also try to relax them by applying a hot or cold compress to their forehead or neck. Then asked them to lay down with their head slightly raised. In the meanwhile, ask them to keep themselves hydrated.
- Focus on their diet : Fresh fruits and vegetables can help your child overcome bouts of throbbing headaches. Avoid giving them caffeinated beverages and oily food. Magnesium, Vitamin B2 and Vitamin D may help reduce the frequency or severity of headaches but consult a doctor before providing your child with these dietary supplements.
- Help relieve their stress : Stress can trigger long and frequent headaches. Stress-related headaches are common during exam periods, but you can play a role in comforting your child if they suffer from them. Breathing exercises and a slight head massage with a few drops of essential oil can give them some momentary relief by calming their nerves. Practicing yoga is another way of getting some relief. Certain therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy, biofeedback training and relaxation training are prescribed by doctors to manage headaches in certain cases.
10 tell-tale signs that your child need immediate medical attention
If your child often complains of having a headache or if the headache manifests along with the following symptoms then it is imperative for parents to consult a doctor immediately –
- When your child is unable to look up at the ceiling, is unable to touch their chest with their chin and can’t shake their head back and forth then you have to rush them to the doctor to ensure that they do not have meningitis
- When their headache is accompanied by severe vomiting; it could be a sign of a head injury or some kind of a viral infection
- When the headache is extremely painful and it wakes them up at the middle of the night
- When the headache becomes worse when they lie down
- When the bouts of headache are frequent and it interferes with their day to day life like their school work or play time
- When it causes change in vision, decreases their alertness and affects their motor skills
- When headache is accompanied with skin rashes
- When headache is accompanied with seizures
- Headaches triggered by anxiety and depression
- When your child had a severe head injury
Medical treatments of headache
Before suggesting a treatment course, doctors will first try to diagnose the cause of the headache. As headaches could be genetic in nature, they will first try to gain information regarding the child’s family history followed by a thorough examination of the patient. The doctor typically asks questions such as when and where the headache occurs, how frequent, long, and severe the headache episodes are, any history of trauma or stress, or visible changes in their behavioural pattern to determine the root cause of the headache, as it can be caused by a variety of things.
In the case of tension headaches and migraines, no further testing is required; however, if doctors are unsure of the exact cause after the preliminary examination, other diagnostic techniques such as blood tests, MRI, CT scans, and so on are recommended. If the doctor suspects that those intense headaches are caused by meningitis then they might recommend spinal tap also known as lumbar puncture. It is a diagnostic technique where a thin needle is inserted between two vertebrae in the lower back to extract a fluid called cerebrospinal for laboratory analysis. Meningitis occurs when the protective membranes that surround our brain and spinal cord become inflamed. One of the common symptoms of meningitis is severe bouts of headache along with fever and neck stiffness. This often requires immediate medical attention.
The specific treatment for your child’s headache is determined by his or her overall health history, age, type of headache, and severity of the headache, as well as the child’s response to specific medications, therapies, and procedures.
Although headaches are common and are often harmless, parents are required to make note of certain things like how often and severe are the bouts of headaches, along with the headache can you see any changes in their behavioural pattern and other accompanying symptoms mentioned above. Like any other sickness, early detection of the underlying cause of the headache, be it poor posture or brain disorder, can help improve the prognosis of your child’s treatment.
When you feel like the headaches are unusual, do not second guess yourself. Speak to your trusted family doctor. Listen to what they have to say. Work together on a treatment plan if and when required. Headaches are common but shouldn’t be ignored if it hampers your child’s day to day life in any manner. If their ordeal continues and is frequent, visit your nearest doctor.