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Pain or discomfort of the scalp or forehead areas
The face and ears are excluded
Viral illnesses: Most headaches are part of a viral illness, especially with colds. These usually last a few days.
Muscle tension headaches: Most common type of recurrent headaches. Muscle tension headaches give a feeling of tightness around the head. The neck muscles also become sore and tight. Tension headaches can be caused by staying in one position for a long time, such as with reading or using a computer. Other children get tension headaches as a reaction to stress, such as pressure for better grades or family disagreements.
Migraine headaches: Recurrent severe, incapacitating headaches
Other common causes: Hunger, exertion, sunlight, coughing
Frontal sinusitis: can cause a frontal headache just above the eyebrow. Rare before 10 years old because frontal sinus not developed. Other sinuses cause face pain, not headache.
Serious causes: Meningitis or encephalitis. Symptoms include a headache, stiff neck, vomiting, fever and confusion.
Followed a head injury within last 3 days, see HEAD INJURY
Pain is around the eye or the cheekbone, see SINUS PAIN AND CONGESTION
Difficult to awaken or passed out
Confused thinking/talking or slurred speech
Blurred or double vision
Weakness of arm or leg or unsteady walking
Your child looks or acts very sick
Stiff neck (can't touch chin to chest)
You think your child needs to be seen urgently
You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
Sinus pain (not just congestion) of forehead
You have other questions or concerns
Headache without other symptoms present over 24 hours
Sore throat present over 48 hours
Any headache present over 3 days
Headaches are a recurrent chronic problem
Mild headache and you don't think your child needs to be seen
Headaches are very common with viral illness, especially with colds. They usually resolve in 2 or 3 days.
Unexplained headaches can occur in children, just as they do in adults. They usually pass in a few hours or last up to a day.
Most headaches (including muscle tension headaches) are helped by the following measures.
Pain Medicine: Give acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen for pain relief (see Dosage table). Headaches due to fever are also helped by fever reduction.
Food: Give fruit juice or food if your child is hungry or hasn't eaten in more than 4 hours (Reason: Skipping a meal can cause a headache in many children).
Rest: Lie down in a quiet place and relax until feeling better.
Local Cold: Apply a cold wet washcloth or cold pack to the forehead for 20 minutes.
Stretching: Stretch and massage any tight neck muscles.
Call Your Doctor If:
Headache becomes severe
Isolated headache lasts over 24 hours
Headache lasts over 3 days
Your child becomes worse
Extra Advice - Muscle Tension Headache Prevention:
If something is bothering your child, help him talk about it and get it off his mind.
Teach your child to take breaks from activities that require sustained concentration. Encourage your child to do relaxation exercises during the breaks.
Teach your child the importance of getting adequate sleep.
If over-achievement causes headaches, help your child find more balance.
Caution: Your child should have a complete medical checkup before you conclude that recurrent headaches are due to worrying too much or stress.
Reassurance: This headache is similar to previous migraine headaches that your child has experienced.
If your child's doctor has prescribed a specific medication for migraine, give it as directed as soon as the migraine starts.
If not, ibuprofen is the best over-the-counter drug for migraine. Give ibuprofen now and repeat in 6 hours if needed (See Dosage Table).
Sleep: Have your child lie down in a dark, quiet place and try to fall asleep. People with migraine often awaken from sleep with their migraine gone.
Prevention of Migraine Attacks:
Stay well hydrated.
Don't skip meals.
Get adequate sleep each night.
Headache becomes much worse than usual
Headache lasts longer than usual
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