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Pediatric Neurology

Pediatric Headache Care

If headaches disrupt your child, adolescent or teen’s life, see a University Children’s Health pediatric neurologist to help minimize the pain and frequency. Treatment can bring back their enjoyment of everyday life at home and school.

Kids & Headaches

Many children experience headaches, and some have migraines. All headaches can affect your child’s mood, activity level and school performance. Younger children often do not know they have headaches; they just feel pain. 

As a parent, the more you know about headache triggers and symptoms, the easier it will be to identify and prevent them.

What’s a Migraine?

By age 10, up to 5% of children have experienced a migraine headache. Migraines often begin as a dull ache and develop into a constant throbbing pain at the temples, front or back of the head on one or both sides. Along with pain, there may be a combination of nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and noise. 

Some children have auras, a warning sign of a migraine coming, affecting vision, speech and other senses.

Migraine Causes & Triggers

Chemical reactions in the brain may be the cause of migraines. Children are at increased risk of migraines if their parents have them. 

Physical and environmental factors can trigger a migraine too. Keep a headache diary to track your child’s triggers. 

Common triggers are:

  • Bright lights, strong odors, smoke and noise
  • Caffeinated beverages or caffeine withdrawal
  • Dehydration 
  • Food additives like monosodium glutamate (MSG) and artificial sweeteners
  • Environmental conditions, like high altitudes and airplanes
  • Hormonal changes and menstruation
  • Weather conditions, such as hot, humid weather, bright sunshine or barometric pressure changes
  • Lack of sleep or oversleeping
  • Pain medication overuse
  • Skipping meals
  • Foods such as aged cheese, chocolate, citrus and packaged meats
  • Stress and emotions

Headache Evaluation & Treatments for Kids

Your child is unique and needs personalized migraine treatment that is health and age appropriate. Your doctor may recommend:

  • Avoiding triggers
  • Behavioral and cognitive strategies and therapy to self-manage pain and distress caused by migraines and headaches
  • Lifestyle changes to eating healthy food, getting enough sleeping and exercising regularly
  • Over-the-counter medications
  • Prescription medications to relieve symptoms and prevent or stop migraines
  • Rest in a cool, dark, quiet place at the beginning of a headache
  • Alternative therapies:
    • Acupuncture
    • Botox
    • Self-care methods, such as relaxation techniques and biofeedback
    • Vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements

Tips to Prevent Headaches

Medical treatments for headaches work best when paired with healthy lifestyle choices. Promote good overall health and avoid triggers to reduce and prevent headaches. Make sure your child takes prescription medications at the right time and as directed.

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