Does your child get headaches?
Are they easy to control?
Headaches, including migraines, are much more common in kids than most parents imagine. In fact, one study showed that up to 8% of kids have migraines, with many starting to have headaches by age 7 or 8 years.
Treating Headaches in Kids
In addition to treating headaches when they happen, it is important to teach your kids to get SMART and prevent their headaches:
- Get plenty of Sleep each night.
- Never skip Meals.
- Be physically Active and exercise each day.
- Learn ways to Relax and reduce any extra stress in their life.
- Avoid things that you know Trigger their headaches.
If this doesn’t work and your child’s headaches are bothersome, you can consider treating them with a standard, age-appropriate pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Treating Hard To Control Headaches
If your child has chronic headaches, ask yourself these questions and share the answers with your pediatrician:
- Does your child have any signs of symptoms that might indicate that he needs immediate medical attention, including severe headaches that are getting worse, high blood pressure, a recent head injury, seizures, fever, or headaches that routinely wake your child up in the middle of the night?
- Are your child’s headaches interfering with daily activities, including school, sports, or social activities?
- Do headaches, especially migraine headaches, run in the family?
- Does your child routinely have symptoms of allergies, in addition to headaches, with a runny nose and congestion, which could be a sign of allergy headaches?
- How does your child describe her headache pain?
- Does your child have any other symptoms with the headache, such as anorexia, nausea, vomiting, photophobia (light hurts their eyes), phonophobia (loud sounds bother them), or osmophobia (smells bother them)?
- Can your child sense when a headache is about to begin, with with an aura, including symptoms like slow or slurred speech (dysarthria), vertigo (sense of spinning), or changes in their vision?
- What does your child do during a headache?
- Do you think that your child is having migraine headaches, tension type headaches, or allergy headaches, etc.?
- Have you been giving your child pain medicines for her headaches on most days (more than 15 times a month), which can cause rebound or worsening headaches?
- Have you been giving your child a triptan medicine for her headaches on most days (more than 10 times a month), which can cause rebound or worsening headaches?
- If stress is a major trigger for your child’s headaches, have you considered seeing a counselor or child psychologist for extra help?
- Have you tried keeping a symptom diary to try and identify headache triggers, such as caffeine, chocolate, weather changes, or stress, etc.?
What’s next if your child is still having bothersome headaches?
The FDA has approved a few medications (triptans) that can stop migraine headaches in kids, including:
- Axert (almotriptan) – FDA approved for children between the ages of 12 and 17 years
- Maxalt (rizatriptan) – FDA approved for children between the ages of 6 and 17 years
Zofran (ondansetron) can also be helpful if your child has nausea and vomiting with her headaches.
Lastly, a daily medication might help prevent your child from getting headaches in the first place. These preventative migraine medications can include Periactin (cyproheptadine), Elavil (amitripyline), Topamax (topiramate), Depakote (valproic acid), propanolol, or clonidine.
A pediatric neurologist can help manage your child with hard to control headaches. Other treatments for chronic headaches can include biofeedback, guided-imagery, cognitive behavioral therapy, and select nutritional supplements.
What To Know About Treating Hard To Control Headaches
It can be frustrating when your kids have regular headaches, including migraines, but fortunately, there are many things you can do to both prevent and treat your child’s chronic headaches.
More Information On Treating Hard To Control Headaches
- AAP – Causes of Headaches
- AAP – Headaches: When to Call the Pediatrician
- Imaging Tests for Headaches
- Headache in Children
- Allergy Headaches
- Migraine and Aura
- Children’s Headache Disorders
- Study – The evaluation and management of paediatric headaches
- Practice Parameter: Pharmacological treatment of migraine headache in children and adolescents
Last Updated on December 4, 2016 by Vincent Iannelli, MD