Did you know at least 60% of children experience headaches? Headaches are one of the most common reasons that children are referred to see a neurologist. Many parents and children worry that a headache is a sign of a life-threatening condition; however, 95% of headaches in children are not harmful.
Migraines are the most common cause of recurrent headaches in children. If migraines run in your family, then it may be more likely that your child will also experience migraines. Stressors in children such as bullying, anxiety, or depression can also make headaches worse.
Headache symptoms can be different for each child. Some symptoms of a migraine headache can include:
- Moderate to severe throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head
- Desire to sleep because of a headache
- Decreased appetite, nausea, or vomiting
- Light and sound sensitivity
- Symptoms lasting anywhere from 2 to 72 hours
- Recurrence of a headache one to two times per month or up to several times per month
Preventing Headaches in Children
Dr. Rao offers some tips to try to prevent your child from getting a headache.
- Stay hydrated. Give your child water to drink throughout the day. Children should be getting at least 64 ounces of noncaffeinated fluid throughout the day.
- Avoid giving your child drinks with caffeine, such as soda, tea and coffee.
- Have your child eat a balanced meal three times a day and avoid skipping meals.
- Get moving! Encourage your child to exercise three to five times per week as part of a healthy lifestyle.
- Ensure your child gets 8-10 hours of sleep. Avoid napping and keep a routine sleep schedule even on the weekends and holidays!
- Limit the use of screen time to no more than 2 hours per day.
- Incorporate relaxation techniques into your child’s routine. This can include deep breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, or visualization techniques.
When to See a Doctor
“Headaches often go undiagnosed in children. If your child is experiencing headaches, you should take them to see their pediatrician for a diagnosis. Oftentimes, initial recommendations from your pediatrician can help quickly manage headaches. If these initial therapies are not effective, a referral to a pediatric neurologist may be made,” says Dr. Rao.
Call a healthcare provider if your child has symptoms that don’t get better, or get worse, or if new symptoms arise.
The Children’s Hospital Neurology Department has specialists who treat migraines and headaches in children. To make an appointment, call (504) 896-2888.
About Dr. Rashmi Rao
Dr. Rashmi Rao specializes in Child Neurology at Children’s Hospital. She received her medical degree from the University of South Alabama in Mobile. She then completed her residency training and Child Neurology fellowship at LSU Health New Orleans. Dr. Rao is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology with Special Qualification in Child Neurology. She also serves as an Assistant Professor of Pediatric Neurology at LSU Health New Orleans. On providing expert care for children and families, Dr. Rao said, “Each child is unique and requires individualized care. I will listen to your concerns and address your questions during our visit. By establishing a relationship with both you and your child, we will develop a treatment plan together that will be best suited for your child’s needs.” Dr. Rao sees headache patients at the Children’s Hospital Main Campus in New Orleans and Children’s Hospital’s Northshore Center.