Children and teens frequently develop common tension headaches. But they’re also susceptible to serious headaches like migraines.
About 10% of children aged 5-15 years get migraines. That number rises to 28% of teens. And, surprisingly, half of all kids have their first migraine before the age of 12.
As specialists in children’s headaches, THINK Neurology for Kids talks with a lot of parents. One of the most frequent questions they encounter is how parents can know when their child’s headache needs medical care.
Don’t hesitate to call us with any questions about your child’s headache symptoms. In the meantime, here’s a guide to help you spot the warning signs and know when your child needs a thorough evaluation.
You should be concerned when your child’s headache:
Occurs after a fall or injury
You child may suffer a seemingly harmless fall on the playground or at home. Or they could take an intense hit during sports. No matter how minor the injury seems — and even if your child appears fine afterward — a headache after an injury signals a concussion.
Your child could have a headache without other concussion symptoms such as dizziness, confusion, or memory loss. And don’t rule out a concussion just because your child didn’t bang their head.
Anything that forces a whiplash-type head movement can lead to a concussion. For example, a forceful impact during a tackle can cause head movement that makes the brain bounce against the skull.
Concussions should always be carefully evaluated. A mild concussion still affects your child’s brain function and a full recovery depends on proper treatment.
Appears along with emergency symptoms
Headaches accompanied by any of the following symptoms require emergency attention:
- Sudden, severe head pain
- Double vision
- Stiff neck
- Neck pain
A headache that occurs with these symptoms could be a sign of meningitis or encephalitis.
Resembles a migraine
Migraines are always a concern because they’re chronic, extremely painful, and affect your child’s success at school. You can usually recognize a migraine because it causes severe pain on one side of the head. In some cases, the pain may involve both sides.
Migraines are typically accompanied by nausea, vomiting, vision changes, and sensitivity to light and sound. About one-third of children experience a sensation called aura.
Aura occurs shortly before your child’s migraine starts. They may experience vision changes such as flashes of light, or they could hear noises, have uncontrollable movements, or experience sensations like tingling.
We can help children who have migraines with treatments that reduce the severity and frequency of their headaches. We also work with parents to identify and reduce the things that trigger their child’s migraines.
Doesn’t improve, worsens, or keeps coming back
Any type of headache should be evaluated if it doesn’t improve or gets worse despite over-the-counter medications. This type of headache could signal an underlying health condition.
You should also schedule an appointment if your child has recurrent headaches, daily headaches, or headaches that wake them during the night.
Happens after straining
Your child may need a neurological evaluation if their headache is triggered by coughing, sneezing, or even having a bowel movement. These headaches, called cough headaches, typically begin shortly after straining.
The symptoms of a cough headache include:
- Sharp, stabbing pain
- Pain felt on the front of their head
Though cough headaches are usually harmless, they can signal a problem in your child’s brain.
To get help for your child’s headache, call our offices in The Woodlands, Katy, and Cypress, Texas, or request an appointment online today.