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Dr. Andrew Rynne
MD
Dr. Andrew Rynne

Family Physician

Exp 50 years

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Article Home Children's Health Headache in children

Headache in children

Headaches occur in more than 90 percent of school-age children.

Causes of children's headaches:

A number of factors, singly or in combination, can make your child headache-prone. These factors include:


  • Genetic predisposition. Headaches, particularly migraines, tend to run in families. If you have a family history of bad headaches, your child will have a higher risk of getting them too.
  • Head trauma. Accidental bumps and bruises can cause headaches. Although most head injuries are minor, seek medical attention right away if your child falls hard on his or her head. Also contact a doctor if your child has a steadily worsening headache after a bang on the head.
  • Illness and infection. Headache is a frequent symptom of many common childhood illnesses. Ear infections, sinus infections, colds and flu are often accompanied by headache.
  • Environmental factors. Conditions in the environment, including weather changes, odors, loud noises and bright light all can cause headaches.
  • Emotional factors. High levels of stress and anxiety — often triggered by problems with peers, teachers or parents — play a role in many children's headaches. Children with depression may complain of headaches, particularly if they have trouble recognizing feelings of sadness and loneliness.
  • Certain foods and beverages. The food additive monosodium glutamate (MSG), found in such foods as bacon, bologna and hot dogs, has been known to trigger headaches. Also, caffeine, which is in soda, chocolate, coffee and tea, can cause headaches.

When to call the doctor:

It's very rare that a child's headache is a sign of something more serious. However, you should seek a doctor's advice if your child's headaches:

  • Occur at least once a month
  • Keep him or her out of school
  • Follow an injury, such as a blow to the head
  • Awaken him or her from sleep
  • Feature persistent vomiting or visual changes
  • Are accompanied by fever, along with neck pain or stiffness

Types of children’s headaches:

  • Migraine: Migraines can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Even infants can have migraines.
  • Tension type headache:  It is often stress related. It causes pressing tightness that occurs on both sides of head.
  • Chronic daily headache:  If the child has headache for more than 15 days a month for more than three months, she is said to have chronic daily headache.
  • Cluster headache: It is the least common type of headache in children. It is usually disabling and involves a sharp, stabbing pain on one side of the head that lasts less than three hours.

When to call the doctor:

It's very rare that a child's headache is a sign of something more serious. However, you should seek a doctor's advice if your child's headaches:


  • Occur at least once a month
  • Keep him or her out of school
  • Follow an injury, such as a blow to the head
  • Awaken him or her from sleep
  • Feature persistent vomiting or visual changes
  • Are accompanied by fever, along with neck pain or stiffness.

Treating children’s headaches:

Treatment depends on type of headache. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen relieve mild headaches and even some migraines.