Headache in Children: Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors, Prevention, Diagnosis, Treatment and Advice

This type of pain is not only for adults. Approximately 1 in 5 school-age children and adolescents are likely to have them.

Headaches in children are common and are usually not serious. Like adults, children can develop different headaches, such as migraines or stress-related headaches (tension). Children can also have chronic headaches every day.

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache in children. But around 5% of children suffer migraines, some from 4 years old.

In some cases, headaches in children are caused by infection, high levels of stress or anxiety, or mild head trauma. Pay attention to your child’s headache symptoms and consult a doctor if the headache worsens or occurs frequently.

You may worry that your child’s headache is a sign of a more severe problem, such as a brain tumor. But that is not true for most childhood headaches. Do not worry so much; you can find treatments together by tracking the symptoms and talking to your doctor.

Symptoms of headache in children

Children have the same headaches as adults, but the symptoms may differ. For instance, migraine pain in children can persist a little less than four (04) hours; for adults, migraine headaches last at least four (04) hours.

Differences in symptoms can make it challenging to identify the type of headache in a child, especially in a minor child who can not describe the symptoms. However, specific symptoms tend to decrease more frequently in certain categories.



Migraines can cause:

  • Pulsing, throbbing, or throbbing headache.
  • Pain that gets worse with the effort.
  • Nausea.
  • He retched.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Extreme sensitivity to light and sound.
  • Even babies can have migraines. A child too young to tell you what is wrong can cry and hold his head to indicate severe pain.

Tension headache

Tension-type headaches can cause:

  • Oppression in the muscles of the head or neck.
  • Mild to moderate pain, without brushes, on both sides of the head.
  • Pain that gets worse with physical activity
  • Headache is not accompanied by nausea or vomiting, as is usually the case with migraine.
  • Younger children withdraw from the game activity and prefer to sleep more. Tension-type headaches can last from 30 minutes to several days.

Headache in Clusters

Cluster headaches are rare in children under ten years of age. They usually:

  • They occur in groups of five or more episodes, ranging from a headache every two days to eight per day.
  • It involves sharp, throbbing pain on one side of the head that lasts less than three hours.
  • It is accompanied by tears, congestion, nasal discharge, restlessness, or agitation.
  • Chronic daily headache.
  • Doctors use the phrase “chronic daily headache” for migraines and tension headaches that occur more than 15 days a month. It can be caused by an infection, a minor head injury, or too often taking pain medications, including over-the-counter pain medications.


Most children contract them due to illness, infection (cold), or fever. For example, sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses) and conditions of the throat or ear can trigger headaches.

Headaches for migraine are a different story. Doctors do not know precisely what causes them, but they know that they are related to the physical and chemical changes in the brain and the genes that parents transmit to their children.

Approximately 7 out of 10 children with migraine have a family member with a history. Similar things, such as fatigue, bright lights, and weather changes, can trigger their attacks. Other migraine triggers include stress, anxiety, depression, change in sleep patterns, loud noises, or certain foods.

Too much physical activity or sun can cause a migraine in some children. Girls can get them due to hormonal changes when they get their periods. This type of headache is called menstrual migraine.

Common causes of tension headaches include:

  • Emotional stress.
  • Eye strain due to poor vision.
  • Neck or back strain is linked to poor posture.

Most headaches are harmless. But if they worsen over time and occur with specific other symptoms, they can signify a more severe problem. A series of agents can cause your child to develop headaches. The factors include:

Disease and infection: Diseases such as colds, flu, and ear infections (or more severe meningitis or encephalitis) are children’s most frequent causes of headaches.

Head trauma: Bruising and bruising can cause headaches. Although most head injuries are minor, seek immediate medical attention if your child receives a severe blow to the head. Also, contact a doctor if the headache worsens steadily after an injury.

Emotional factors: Stress and anxiety, perhaps triggered by problems with peers, teachers, or parents, can play a role in children’s headaches. Children with depression may complain of headaches, especially if they have trouble recognizing feelings of sadness and loneliness.

Genetic predisposition: Headaches, especially migraines, tend to occur in families.

Certain foods and beverages: Nitrates, a preservative found in cured meats, such as bacon, bologna sausage, and hot dogs, can trigger headaches. In addition, excessive caffeine in soft drinks, chocolates, coffees, and teas can cause headaches.

Brain problems: Rarely, a brain tumor, abscess, or bleeding in the brain can put pressure on areas of the brain and cause a chronic, worsening headache. Usually, however, there are other symptoms in these cases, such as visual problems, dizziness, and lack of coordination.

Risk factor’s

All children may have headaches, but they are more common in:

  • The girls after the development.
  • Children with a history of headaches.
  • Older teenagers


The following can help you prevent headaches or reduce the severity of headaches in children:

Practice healthy behaviors: Behaviors that promote good general health can also help prevent headaches for your child. These lifestyle measures include getting enough sleep, being physically active, eating healthy meals and snacks, drinking four to eight glasses of water a day, and avoiding caffeine.

Reduce stress: Stress and schedules can increase the frequency of headaches. Be aware that it can cause stress in your child’s life, such as difficulty doing chores or strained relationships with peers. Consider talking with a counselor if your child’s headaches are related to anxiety or depression.

Keep a diary of your headache: A journal can help determine what causes your child’s headaches. When headaches begin, how long do they last, and what, if anything, provides relief.

Record your child’s response to taking any headache medication. Over time, the items you write down in the headache journal should help you understand your child’s symptoms so he can take specific preventive measures.

Avoid headache triggers: Avoid any food or drink, such as those containing caffeine, that seems to trigger headaches. Your headache diary can help you determine what causes your child’s headaches, so you know what to avoid.

Follow your doctor’s plan: Your doctor can recommend preventive medications if the headaches are severe, occur daily, and interfere with your child’s everyday lifestyle. Certain medications taken at regular intervals, such as certain antidepressants or anticonvulsant medications, can reduce the frequency and severity of headaches.

When to See a Doctor

Most headaches are not severe, but seek immediate medical attention if your child’s headaches:

  • Awaken your son from the dream.
  • Get worse or become more frequent
  • Change the personality of your child.
  • Follow an injury, like a blow to the head.
  • Presents persistent vomiting or visual changes.
  • They are accompanied by fever and pain or stiff neck.

When speaking about the child’s headache with the family doctor for the first time, ask about the action plan and the time frame if the symptoms continue or become more frequent despite treatment and different approaches.

Ask your family doctor or pediatrician for a referral to a specialist: for children, a pediatric neurologist; for teenagers, a specialist in headaches. A young person can enjoy a whole and rewarding life with the correct diagnosis and a specific treatment plan.

To find a headache specialist, request a referral to your GP.


A complete history and a physical examination are usually sufficient for migraine or tension-type headaches in pediatric patients. Laboratory, radiological, or electroencephalogram studies do not help confirm the diagnosis of migraine, but they can help exclude other causes of headache.

For headaches associated with head trauma or significant intracranial hemorrhage, the following laboratory studies may be indicated:

  • Complete blood count.
  • Prothrombin time.
  • I activated partial thromboplastin time.
  • Lumbar punctures can reveal high opening pressure, leukocytosis, high protein, and low glucose. It is the most sensitive test in the diagnosis of subarachnoid hemorrhage.

Diagnostic images are not routinely indicated unless a structural cause is suspected or, possibly, unless the patient is very young and has no family history. The modalities include the following:

  • Sinus radiography.
  • Computed tomography.
  • Magnetic resonance image.

The electroencephalogram may help assess the status of an underlying seizure disorder associated with headaches or exclude seizures in children with acute confusional migraines.

Importance of a Diagnosis

Determining the cause and type of headache can be challenging even for an experienced doctor.

To develop an accurate diagnosis, the evaluation process should include a detailed history of the child and parents (who should be associated with their doctors throughout the entire diagnosis and treatment process), a complete physical examination, and a thorough neurological examination.

By taking a history, your family doctor or pediatrician will become a detective looking for clues:

  • How does the headache feel?
  • Where is the location of the pain?
  • What is its severity?
  • Does it appear without warning, or are there signs approaching?
  • Is there weakness, nausea, sensitivity to light or noise, lethargy, or dizziness?
  • Are there auras (bright lights, blind spots, vision changes)?
  • How long is the headache? Do headaches occur after eating certain foods or beverages (soda with caffeine, pizza, or chocolate)?
  • Do some situations, events, or physical activity cause a headache?
  • Are a child’s headache symptoms similar to those experienced by other family members?

These are just some of the questions. A physical and neurological examination will verify muscle weakness, balance or vision problems, and other neurological signs that could contribute to a chronic or recurrent headache.

You should consider consulting a specialist if the symptoms persist or are not appropriately handled through medications or treatment without a prescription.

Treatment of headaches in children

The treatment of pediatric headache is of 3 basic types:

  • Symptomatic.
  • Abortive.
  • Price quotation.

The drugs used in the symptomatic treatment are chosen according to the following:

  • Type and frequency of headache.
  • Type of symptoms present.
  • Profile of adverse effects.
  • Comorbidities present.

The non-pharmacological treatment of migraine and tension headaches includes the following:

  • Elimination of identified precipitants.
  • Lifestyle changes.
  • The relief of stress.

Abortive therapy for migraine and tension headaches may include the following:

  • Triptans (sumatriptan, almotriptan, rizatriptan and others).
  • Isometepteno y Ergotamina.
  • Analgesics.

Prophylactic therapy for migraine and tension headaches may include the following:

  • Beta-blockers.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants.
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Calcium channel blockers.

The treatment of chronic daily headaches may include the following:

  • A combination of therapies is used for tension and migraine.
  • Discontinuation of over-the-counter analgesics and all narcotics.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants.
  • Psychological, behavioral, and relaxation interventions.
  • Abortive therapy.

Advice for Parents

Parents want their children to have an everyday, active and happy life. Then, it is natural to worry when a child or adolescent has been diagnosed with tension or migraine-type headaches.

And, if the headache is a migraine, some parents feel unnecessarily guilty because their child may have inherited this condition. Or, if a parent also has migraines, their identification with this problem could inhibit objectivity by helping the child.

As a parent, you should be sensitive to your child’s headaches because of the pain. A child will sometimes feel excluded from family, school, or friends’ activities because the headache prevents the child from participating.

Acknowledge their concerns and help them understand what is happening. But remember, too much attention or pampering is counterproductive. The excessive reaction does not allow the child to put the headache in perspective and could create problems with other siblings or their child’s friends.

Once a child’s pediatrician or neurologist has diagnosed the headache and ruled out the organic causes, you should help your child have a rewarding lifestyle.


Tension headaches are almost always caused by emotional stress, and stress can aggravate migraines. Therefore, it is essential to understand what causes your child’s anxiety and your own and how you both can handle it.

Counseling can be beneficial in identifying stress (which is particularly relevant to tension-type headaches) and teaching a child how to cope better with headaches in daily life. If counseling is possible, you can try it.

Headache at Home

When your child develops a headache or feels that you are coming, suggest a low-light room and offer medicine and an ice pack if it helps. Be sensitive and sensitive to the headache without pampering, and treat this child the same way you treat your other children.

Healthy and Moderate Lifestyle

Successful control of headaches includes:

  • Balanced and nutritious meals.
  • Complete and regular sleep patterns.
  • Physical exercise.
  • Activities.
  • Avoiding foods or environmental triggers.

However, they should minimize physical activity during a headache as it aggravates the headache.

School and Communication

Parents need to discuss headaches with school health professionals and teachers. Your child’s doctor can write a letter explaining the importance of the treatment when the headache begins. Give medications and instructions for use to the school nurse.

Explain to each teacher each semester that when a child feels the signs of a headache, he should be allowed to leave the class, go to the infirmary to look for medication, and rest until the symptoms subside.

School absences

Sometimes, a headache will cause a child to arrive late to school, leave school early or miss a day of school, but you should not miss more than five days per semester. An additional evaluation may be necessary if a child loses more than five days.

Parents should look for signs of stress if a child loses more than 20 days a year. Discouraging “school refusal” and homeschooling should not be a solution to headaches.

Parents and Doctors

Some children diagnosed will find immediate relief with the prescribed treatment. Doctors may have to try some approaches with other children before they succeed. If symptoms persist, it’s time to ask your family doctor to refer you to a pediatric neurologist or specialist.


Avoid excess activities. If a particular activity triggers a headache, avoid it if possible and, if it can not be avoided, discuss how it might be more manageable. Your pediatrician, psychologist, teachers, or other children may have suggestions for alternative activities.

Impact on the School

When children experience chronic headaches, it affects them at school. Your success in life depends not only on a correct diagnosis and effective treatment but also on understanding the responses of educators and school health professionals.

Educators and School Health Professionals:

He wants his students to perform well academically and participate in school and extracurricular activities. But chronic headaches could affect a child’s concentration, performance, and attendance. However, a young person with headaches can, with their understanding, do well in school.

Advice for Educators

Legitimate Biological Disease

Chronic tension-type headaches in a child are real answers (not excuses) to stress or personal, family, or school-related challenges. Each child responds differently, whether it is a pop math test, an early grammar test, or school play.

While a child suffering from migraines has probably inherited a predisposition, these headaches can also result from environmental foods or triggers.

Identify Stress

It is essential to help the child identify sources of stress at school, for example, problems learning math, science, another language, or a subsequent test. A caring teacher’s recognition, understanding, and encouragement can help a young person with headaches.

Absences to Classes

If a child with headaches seems to miss too many classes, you should discuss this with the student and their parents. When a young person knows that the school environment is comprehensive and supportive, headaches should not be used as a reason to miss school or for more than a minimum amount of time.

When a child feels a headache during school, please encourage them to lie down in the nurse’s room during a headache or until symptoms subside to a more manageable level, but then return to class or school.


When a child (or his father or mother) warns him about headaches, offer him a sensitive reaction that does not embarrass the child in front of his peers. However, if a child suffers from headaches but the teacher or the school health professional has not been informed of a specific condition, they should talk to the parents.

Allow Immediate Treatment

Children with migraines eventually learn the warning signs, including dizziness, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound. The real headache may be accompanied by vomiting. If, during a class, the child explains that he must take medication, encourage him to go to the infirmary.

It is essential to take medication as soon as the first headache signs appear. Waiting until the end of the class could put a young person in a more vulnerable situation and force him to miss more school days.


By the time they are teenagers, women with migraines will probably experience more headaches due to hormonal changes.


Treat children with chronic headaches the same way they would treat any other child.