Childhood Headaches

Children often get headaches. Usually, there’s no reason to worry. Headaches like migraines happen on their own. They can also come from tension, tiredness,or stress. A headache can also be a symptom of something else:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Allergies
  • Flu and other infections
  • Sinus problems
  • Earache
  • Hunger
  • Teeth problems
  • Depression

Very bad headaches may be part of a bigger problem. Here are some examples:

  • Head injury
  • Meningitis or encephalitis (These cause the brain to swell.)

Sometimes parents get scared when their child gets a headache. They are afraid that child has a brain tumor. But headaches hardly ever mean a brain tumor.

Usually, a child’s headache is caused by tight muscles in the neck and head. Tension or stress makes the muscles tight. Also, some medicines like antihistamines and
decongestants can cause headaches.

Questions to Ask

Did your child hurt their head badly in a fall or accident? Are they throwing up, having dry heaves, or holding their head in pain?Yes: Seek Care
Does your child have any of these problems?
  • Stiff neck and fever, or can’t bend the head down
  • Feel confused
  • Blurry vision or one pupil bigger than the other
  • Trouble talking
  • Hard to wake up
  • Doesn’t walk straight
  • Purple spotted rash
Yes: Seek Care
Does your child have these signs of infection?
  • Fever
  • Pus in the throat
  • Yellow-green stuff from the nose, throat, or ears
  • A bad smell from the nose, throat, or ears
Yes:See Doctor
Are your child’s headaches on one side of the head? Does your child get an upset stomach or throw up with the headache? Or does your child have blurry or strange vision before the headache starts?Yes:Call Doctor
Does your child get a lot of headaches? Or do your child’s headaches last more than 3 days?Yes:Call Doctor

Self-Care Tips

  • Have your child rest in a dark, quiet room with their eyes closed.
  • Rub the base of your child’s head with your thumbs. Start under the ears and work back. Rub the temples, too.
  • Give your child a warm bath.
  • Put a cold washcloth over your child’s eyes.
  • Try to make your child feel safe and happy at home. Try not to ask too much of them. Let them share their feelings with you.
  • Give your child the right dose of acetaminophen for their age.
    (Note: Do not give aspirin to anyone under 19 years old unless your doctor tells you to. Aspirin and other medicine that have salicylates have been linked to Reye’s Syndrome, a condition that can kill.)
  • See other problems in this book that cause headaches. Examples: fever, earache, sore throat, flu, etc.
  • Have your child’s teeth checked when you should.
  • Make sure your child eats well. Give them healthy snacks like fruit or cereal if they get hungry between meals.

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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021