Headache in children

The incidence of headaches in children has increased significantly 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.

Nevertheless, it is not always easy to detect headaches in children. Children often find it difficult to communicate their complaints because they are not yet able to 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. All in all, 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 usually describe the pain as pressing or pulling, or they compare it to a ring that squeezes the head. If your child occasionally suffers from such headaches, do not give him or her pills immediately. There are initially more gentle possibilities:

relaxation procedures: Learn together a relaxation method. For children, fantasy irons are well suited where the pain is pictorially 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, preferably water. Cola or coffee should be avoided because caffeine can cause headaches.

If you do 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 headache.

Most children only have complaints every now and then. It becomes problematic when the pain lasts longer. Consult a doctor if the pain occurs every day, if it lasts for more than twelve hours or if the child asks for medication, otherwise he or she will not be able to 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 do 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