Richmond Practice - Headaches in children

Headaches in children
Print Share via email Download PDF Share on facebook Share

My child complains about headaches, when should I be concerned?

Most children and teenagers get at least one headache a year. They're often different from the headaches adults get, so parents and healthcare professionals can fail to notice the problem. They start suddenly, with the child quickly becoming pale and listless, and often feeling sick and vomiting. Children also generally recover very quickly. Children's headaches can also affect their stomach, so tummy-ache is also a common complaint.

What are the common causes?

  • Children with headaches often get them if, for example, they don't eat their packed lunch or don't have anything to drink all day. The best way for parents to prevent their children getting these headaches is to make sure they have regular meals and drinks, and that they get enough sleep
  • Sport can trigger children's headaches, probably because of dehydration and the effect on blood sugar. Some foods can too, especially caffeine (including cola).
  • Sometimes, headaches can be the result of emotional problems.
It can be helpful to keep a diary of your child's headaches. If your child is old enough, they can keep their own diary. This is a good way of working out specific headache triggers.

Consult your doctor if:

  • Usual painkillers do not help and the headaches are interfering with daily activities
  • There is fever, rash, decreased or changing level of consciousness, irritability, confusion, hallucinations, vision problems, seizures, possibility of unobserved head trauma
  • Sensory, cognitive or motor manifestations which may precede headache onset, occur at the same time, or occur after, the headache
  • There are symptoms suggestive of migraine: nausea and vomiting, hypersensitivity to light, sounds, smells, especially if there is also a family history of migraine.
At Elsbeth's Doctors, our consultant paediatrician offers competent advice and a good specialist network if your child needs specific investigations.