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When your child has a headache

Headache is a common problem in childhood. Most children experience a headache. Most headaches in children belong to the migraine family and sometimes they are referred to as benign headaches or tension headaches.

Headaches can be caused by some type of activity or substance, such as caffeine, stress, certain activities, or drugs – and these are called “triggers”. Removal of the trigger helps prevent headaches, if you are able to identify a trigger. Rest, adequate sleep, drinking plenty of fluids, regular meals, and daily exercise (aerobic or non aerobic) also help manage and prevent headaches.

You may give acetaminophen or ibuprofen (no more than every 6 hours and no more than three doses a week – the pediatrician can explain how many pills to take) if the headache causes significant discomfort to your child. Use pain medicine prescribed by your pediatrician, as soon as the pain begins.

Call your doctor for the following reasons:

  • Your child has a fever or neck pain along with headache

  • Worsening pain and increasing frequency over days or weeks or if the headache is associated with vomiting that persists and increases in frequency

  • Headache wakes your child up from sleep or if the child wakes up with headache early in the morning

  • Your child has difficulty with vision, has weakness in an arm or leg, or has difficulty walking because of coordination problems

  • Pain is not decreasing with use of acetaminophen or ibuprofen three times a week.

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