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Headaches

By Nancy VanderSluis, M.D.

Headaches image

Children, like adults, often suffer from mild acute or recurrent headache pain. Mild acute headaches occur occasionally and can result from a viral illness or a fever

Many children suffer from recurrent headaches caused by tension. The neck muscles become sore and tight, causing pain of the forehead, temples or back of head.

Tension headaches frequently occur from prolonged use of video games, computers or other sedentary activities that cause improper posture for an extended period. This type of headache can also be from poor vision with eye strain or a reaction to stress.

Caring for Acute Headaches

To ease pain caused by acute headaches, try the following remedies.

  • Have your child lie down and rest until the pain subsides.
  • Give ibuprofen or acetaminophen at the onset of pain.
  • Apply a cool washcloth on the forehead.

Caring for Tension Headaches

To reduce the pain of a tension headache, try the following tactics.

  • Give your child ibuprofen or acetaminophen and have him or her lie down.
  • Encourage your child to talk about things that may be bothering him or her.
  • Teach your child not to skip meals and drink adequate fluids.
  • Stretch or massage tight neck, forehead and temple muscles.
  • Encourage your child to take breaks from activities that require sustained concentration.
  • Have your child’s vision checked

When to See a Physician about Headaches

Mild acute headaches do not normally require medical attention.

Many headaches caused by illness come and go, but tension headaches recur and can last from a few hours to a day or longer. The causes for recurrent headaches are numerous, so if your child is experiencing recurrent headaches, he or she should be evaluated by a medical professional.

Call your child’s physician immediately if:

  • Pain is severe and persists more than two hours after your child takes pain medication.
  • Your child has difficulty with vision, thinking, speech or walking.
  • Your child’s neck is stiff or your child is acting very sick.