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Headaches in Children

​​​​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 in children frequently o​ccur from prolonged use of video games, computers or other sedentary activities that cause improper posture for an extended period. This type of headach​e 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.

  • Encourage your child to talk about things that may be bothering him or her.
  • Teach your child not to skip meals and drink adequa​te 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.
  • Give your child ibuprofen or acetaminophen and have him or her lie down​. Give Tylenol and Motrin only for a severe headaches and avoid taking these medications frequently.

Using Over-the-Counter Medications to Treat Headache Symptoms

Pediatric neurologist and headache specialist, Dr. Madhav Bandatmakur, explains the potential concerns of relying on over-the-counter medications to manage your child's headaches and why you should seek a specialist when your child's headaches aren't relieved by pain medication.


When to See a Physician about Headaches

Mild acute he​​​adaches 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.
Illness and Injury Pediatric Neurology