Headache in children

Headaches taking place in children have exploded over the past 30 years. Even at preschool age, 10 to 20 percent of children complain about headaches. The number doubles in the first year of school. At the end of primary school, around 90 percent will suffer from headaches, writes child neurologist Raymund Pothmann based on a study of 7,000 children in Germany.

It is not always easy to detect headaches in children. Children often find it difficult to communicate their complaints because they cannot express themselves as adults. Sometimes the child is grumpy, withdraws or complains of discomfort or even abdominal pain. Here too, headache can be the real cause. The children affected feel less comfortable than other children and often bring poorer grades home. Ask your doctor if you notice anything strange about your child as untreated headaches can become chronic.

Frequent causes of headache include stress, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, excessive television viewing or computer games.

60 percent of headache children suffer from tension headaches. These can last between half an hour and several days. The children describe the pain as pressing or pulling, or they compare it to a ring that squeezes the head. If your child sometimes suffers from such headaches, do not give him or her pills. There are more gentle possibilities:

Relaxation procedures: Learn together a relaxation method. For children, fantasy irons are well suited where the pain is overcome.

Rest: Look at your child's leisure plan. Some headaches are unconscious protests against too many activities. Give him more rest. In acute pain it should recover in a darkened room.

Peppermint oil: Rub your child's temples and forehead with a few drops.

Drinking: Give your child enough to drink, best is water. Cola or coffee should be avoided because caffeine can cause headaches.

If you need to take any medication, choose ibuprofen or paracetamol. Acetyl salicylic acid is not suitable for children.

If your child can already write, keep a headache diary. It lists the pain and what has been done or eaten before. In 10 percent of cases, this alone improves headache. The child learns to observe himself/herself and to avoid situations that could trigger a headache.

Most children only have complaints now and then. It becomes problematic when the pain lasts longer. Consult a doctor if the pain occurs every day, if it lasts for over twelve hours or if the child asks for medication, otherwise he or she cannot endure the pain. Maybe it's a migraine. While in adults, however, migraine affects half of the adult head, in children the whole head is affected. The pain is hammering or throbbing. However, some migraine attacks do not cause headaches, but they lead to dizziness, nausea and vomiting. These symptoms are usually associated with migraine only later on when the typical hemiplegia develops in adulthood. For severe seizures, nasal sprays with the active ingredient triptan have proven effective in children.

But not only the paediatrician or - in more serious cases, a headache outpatient clinic at the university hospital - can help you and your child. Visit an eye doctor with your child as a vision defect can also be the cause. The orthodontist may also help you if your jaw is misaligned.


Copyright: Landeszentrale fuer Gesundheitsfoerderung in Rheinland-Pfalz e.V. (LZG) Germany

Text: Dr. Beatrice Wagner, Editor: Marielle Becker