A  A  A   Print
Kids' Headaches: The Diagnosis Is Difficult

Kids' Headaches: The Diagnosis Is Difficult

Headaches aren't only for adults. Kids get them, too. By the time children reach high school age, most have experienced at least one headache, according to the National Headache Foundation.

There are two basic types of headaches: primary headaches, in which the headache is the only symptom and, when treated, will stop; and secondary headaches, which are caused by another condition and don’t usually go away until the condition is treated.

Primary headaches include tension-type and migraine headaches. Hundreds of conditions or circumstances can cause headaches. These can span the gamut from very benign to very serious and include dehydration, sleep deprivation, infections, head injury, meningitis, brain aneurysm, and tumor. Fortunately, the vast majority of headaches in kids are not caused by these problems, but by tension.

Your pediatrician can determine what kind of headache your child has. The doctor will need to talk to both you and your child to determine whether the headache has an emotional component. He or she may also do a neurological exam.

Tension-type headache

This is the most common type of headache in children, and the most likely causes are emotional upsets or stress. Your child may describe the pain as widespread or like a tight band around the head. This type of headache does not usually cause nausea and vomiting.

Tension headaches are almost always related to stressful situations at school, competition, family friction, or excessive demands by parents. The doctor needs to also determine whether anxiety or depression may be present.

Migraine headaches

A migraine headache is sometimes one-sided and throbbing and is occasionally accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Children who have a family history of migraines have a greater chance of developing migraines themselves.

Fortunately, migraines may disappear in some children several years after they appear. However, many children who develop migraine headaches will go on to have them during the rest of their lives. Research has shown that symptoms will have occurred in about a fourth of migraine sufferers before the age of 5 and in about half before the age of 20.

It is important to realize that migraine may occur after a head injury, especially after injury in sporting activities, such as football and baseball. The child will usually recover fully over time.

Immediate care

These headaches require immediate medical attention:

  • A headache in a child who has had a blow to the head or a recent history of head trauma. This is especially true if the headache is steadily getting worse.

  • A headache with fever, nausea or vomiting, confusion, significant sleepiness or loss of consciousness after the headache starts, stiff neck, or skin rash.

  • A headache that comes on suddenly and seems to be the worst headache the child can possibly imagine having, especially if the child does not have any history of ever having headaches.

 
Today's Interactive Tools
Related Items

The third-party content provided in the Health Library of phoebeputney.com is for informational purposes only and is not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your physician. If you or your child has or suspect you may have a health problem, please consult your primary care physician. If you or your child may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 or other emergency health care provider immediately in the United States or the appropriate health agency of your country. For more information regarding site usage, please visit: Privacy Information, Terms of Use or Disclaimer.

Follow us online:

© 2014 Phoebe Putney Health System  |  417 Third Avenue, Albany, Georgia 31701  |  Telephone 877.312.1167

Phoebe Putney Health System is a network of hospitals, family medicine clinics, rehab facilities, auxiliary services, and medical education training facilities. Founded in 1911,
Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital (the flagship hospital) is one of Georgia's largest comprehensive regional medical centers. From the beginning, Phoebe's mission and vision
has been to bring the finest medical talent and technology to the citizens of Southwest Georgia, and to serve all citizens of the community regardless of ability to pay.