Why Does My Child Have A Headache?
When your child comes to you saying their head hurts, it’s normal to be concerned. After all, headaches seem like an adult problem, not something that kids face. But kids can and do get headaches, for varying reasons. Finding out the cause of the headache, especially if your child is experiencing chronic headaches or severe headaches, is key to helping treat the headaches. Let’s go over some common causes of headaches in children.
Tension headaches are the most common form of headaches in children. Also called “pressure headaches”, these headaches are the result of tense head or neck muscles, and usually last a few hours (although they can last up to a few days). What causes tension headaches? These can have many underlying causes but some causes are stress, hormones, too little sleep, eye strain, or poor posture.
If your child has been ill recently, especially with a cold or the flu, their headache may be due to sinusitis. Sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses, which are located on either side of the nose, in the middle of the forehead, and ask your child where the pain is located. If they point anywhere near the sinuses, their headache could be from sinusitis. Other symptoms to look out for are runny nose, stuffy nose, cough with throat irritation, and/or hoarseness.
Other illnesses can produce headaches or headache-like symptoms in your child. For example, congestion during a cold can make your child feel stuffed up enough to cause a headache. Fever headaches also occur, and should go away when the fever goes down.
Psychological causes for headaches
Just as in adults, stress and anxiety can also cause headaches in kids. If your child is going through a rough time—tests or a big project, friend issues, changing schools, a new sibling, etc.—and begins to complain of headaches, they very well may be under stress or experiencing anxiety. Psychosomatic symptoms are physical symptoms we experience due to psychological reasons. Talk to your child and help them develop strategies for dealing with their stress or anxiety. Do not hesitate to seek out professional help if your child is regularly experiencing psychosomatic symptoms like headaches or stomach aches, or if they experience a change for the worse in behavior, or show any signs of depression.
Migraines are different from headaches, however, a child would not know the difference between the two (in fact, many adults do not know the difference between the two!) and will complain of a headache instead. So look for other signs that what they are experiencing is a migraine, such as: sensitivity to outward stimuli such as bright light, strong scents, etc., nausea or vomiting, or tenderness of the scalp.
If you suspect your child is experiencing migraines, contact their pediatrician. Migraines can be debilitating and more severe than a headache, and with your doctor’s help you can figure out your child’s triggers to work on avoiding them, as well as get your child any medication they may need.
Migraines can also happen to girls during their period. This is called a menstrual migraine.
When to worry
Usually, a headache in children is nothing to be worried about. However, if you are concerned with the intensity or frequency of your child’s headaches (severe headaches or chronic headaches), then visit a pediatrician to allay your fears and test for further medical issues, if needed.
For more medical blogs with advice and tips about kids’ health and wellness, check out our blog section!