A headache is pain or discomfort in one or more areas of the head or face. Headaches can happen once in a while. Or they may happen often.
Headaches are often divided into 2 groups, based on what causes them:
Types of primary headaches include:
Researchers don’t fully understand the exact cause of headaches. Many headaches may be caused by tight muscles and widened (dilated) blood vessels in the head. Stress and mental or emotional conflict can trigger tension headaches. Migraine headaches may be caused by changes in brain chemicals or nerve signals.
Other headaches may be caused by a change in pain signals from nerves in the head, face, and neck. Lack of sleep and poor sleep quality are often the cause of chronic headaches. In rarer cases, headaches may be caused by a problem in the brain such as a tumor.
A child is more at risk for headaches if he or she has any of the following:
Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child.
Symptoms of tension headaches can include:
Signs and symptoms of migraines can include:
Symptoms of cluster headaches can include:
Symptoms of a secondary headache may include:
The symptoms of headaches can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she may also ask about your family’s health history. He or she will give your child a physical exam. The physical exam may include a neurological exam.
Your child may be asked questions, such as:
You may be asked questions about your child, such as:
Your child may also have tests, such as:
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on the type of headache, and how severe the condition is.
The goal of treatment is to stop the headache from occurring. Treatment may include:
Migraine headaches may be treated with medicine, such as:
In some cases, a headache may need medical attention right away. Your child may need to stay overnight in the hospital to be watched. He or she may need testing or surgery.
Talk with your child’s healthcare providers about the risks, benefits, and possible side effects of all treatments.
Headaches of any type that come back again and again (recurrent) can cause:
Headaches in a child may be prevented by things such as:
Call the healthcare provider if your child has:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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