6 Tips to Help Parents Reduce Headaches in School-Age Children

Return to school, often means return of headaches. Here are 6 tips to help your child prevent or relieve headaches.

Across the country, children are gearing up for their return to school. With the excitement about the beginning of a new school year, can come increased anxiety. For some parents, this may means the return of their child's complaint about headaches.

About 10% of school-aged children and 15% to 27% of teens experience headaches from time to time, according to Nick DeBlasio, MD, a pediatrician in Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s Pediatric primary Care Clinic. 

Headaches can be triggered by a number of different things, noted Dr. DeBlasio. Here are the most common causes of occasional headaches in children:

Inadequate hydration. Not drinking enough fluids is one of the biggest causes of headaches. This is especially true at the beginning of the school year, when the weather is still warm and the children are more active outside and lose fluid through sweating. If this is the case, the cure might be as simple as having your child drink more water.

Diet. Does your child eat regular meals? Skipping one meal, like breakfast, can trigger a headache. It’s also important to make sure that your child is eating a well-balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. Too much caffeine and certain foods can cause a headache as well.

Sleep. Kids in middle and high school typically need at least 10-12 hours of sleep a night. Not sleeping enough at night can cause a headache. And getting less than 10 hours isn’t enough to feel well-rested.

Stress. We all experience stress from time to time, and children and teens are no exception. If your child is under a lot of pressure from school, or experiencing big changes at home like a divorce or a big move, a headache can result.

Vision problems. If your child is unable to see what’s happening at the front of the classroom, he might be straining his eyes to see far away, which can result in a headache. A vision test can give you a better understanding of whether or not your child’s headaches are being caused by vision problems.

Family history. Your child is more likely to have headaches if a parent gets them as well.

If your child has a headache, try giving her water and over-the-counter ibuprofen. Follow the instructions on the package for the appropriate dosage and do not give it to your child more than three times in a week. If it persists for a few days or worsens, call your child’s pediatrician. Topiramate (Topamax) was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the prevention of migraines in teenager.

Fortunately the majority of headaches in children are not a cause for alarm. However, there are a few instances which require a little more investigation. If your child’s headaches have become more frequent or severe, if he wakes up in the morning of the middle of the night from it, or if the headache causes vomiting, it’s best to have your child evaluated by your pediatrician.

He or she will perform a physical exam and decide if any tests need to be done. Brain scans, like MRIs and CT, are rarely needed. If your pediatrician suspects a migraine, she might refer your child to a neurologist who is familiar with medications to help prevent and treat them.

And if your child or teen is suffering from chronic headaches and migraines, further treatment is warrented. 

Updated on: 11/19/15
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Migraine and Headache Causes