Children can suffer from headaches, just like adults do. More than 90 percent of children and teens will have experienced at least one headache by the time they turn 18 years old. We label child headaches as:
Primary headaches in children
Tension headaches and migraines occur with headache-free days between episodes. New daily persistent headaches can start suddenly and continue daily over the course of three to four months. Common triggers of primary headaches include:
Stress can cause tension headaches in children. They start slowly and produce a tight feeling on both sides of the head, as though being squeezed. Other symptoms include:
While the cause of migraine headaches in children is unknown, they tend to run in families. Common triggers include stress, certain foods, lights or sounds. Migraines are often a throbbing-type pain on one side of the head that goes away and then comes back. Symptoms include:
New daily persistent headaches
New daily persistent headaches have qualities of both migraines and tension headaches. Your child may feel squeezing on both sides of their head, and they may have nausea. They may be sensitive to light and sound. While the intensity of pain may increase and decrease each day, the pain will be present every day, possibly lasting for months.
Diagnosing childhood headaches
Effective treatment for childhood headaches starts with determining what type of headache your child experiences. Your child’s pediatrician will perform both a physical exam and a neurological exam. He or she will also want to know:
In some complex cases, your child’s pediatrician may recommend brain imaging tests. Or your child may be referred to a neurologist for more advanced diagnosis and care.
Treating headaches in children and teens
Behavioral modifications can often reduce the frequency and intensity of your child’s headaches. For example:
For mild or infrequent headaches, over-the-counter medicines may provide relief and are generally safe to use.
If your child experiences frequent headaches, you can find a pediatrician or make an appointment by calling 800-UCLA-MD1.