Headaches in Children

Treatment Options

Treatment for headaches in children will depend on the cause of the headache. Treatment options will also depend on the frequency and severity of the headache, as well as the level of disability it causes. Some children with mild, infrequent headaches may do fine with over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®). Make sure that you carefully follow the directions on the bottle. Doses for children can vary. How often the medication is given can also vary for children. Also, you should not give aspirin to anyone under the age of 20, as it increases the risk of developing Reye's syndrome. This is a rare problem in children and teens that causes nausea, a fever, severe vomiting, and other health problems.
Other children may need more powerful medicines to treat moderate-to-severe attacks (see Headache Medicines). This is often the case for migraine relief in children. Finally, others may have headaches so frequently that preventive headache treatment is recommended.
If your child has frequent headaches, keeping a headache diary may help you identify certain headache triggers.

Preventing Headaches in Children

It is not always possible to prevent headaches in a child. However, there are some things that you can do to decrease the chances. Here are some suggestions:
  • Drink plenty of fluids; dehydration is a possible trigger of headaches. Make sure that your child is drinking four to eight glasses of fluid a day. Fluids with caffeine, including soda, should be avoided. Drinking fluids during a headache may also help it go away sooner.
  • Make sure that your child is eating a healthy diet, with lots of heart-healthy foods. Also make sure that he or she is not skipping meals.
  • Get adequate amounts of sleep. A lack of sleep is a known headache trigger in some people. In general, it is recommended that children get 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night and try to maintain a regular sleep schedule every day.
  • Get regular physical activity. Exercise has been shown to decrease the frequency and severity of certain types of headaches.
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