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Headaches in Children - Prevention

Triggers are things that can cause your child to have headaches. Your child may be able to prevent headaches by avoiding the triggers.

Some things may trigger migraines or tension headaches, including:

  • Emotional stress or anxiety.
  • Fatigue or lack of sleep.
  • Strenuous activity.
  • Being hungry or skipping meals.
  • Bright lights or sun.

Children may feel stress from schoolwork, sports, social events, a poor self-image, or problems with friends. These pressures can lead to headaches in some children. Talk to your child about what might be causing stress. You can help find ways to cope with the stress, which may help prevent the headaches.

Talk to the doctor if you think your child may be depressed or anxious. Treating these problems may reduce the number of headaches your child has.

Other migraine triggers include:

  • Certain foods, such as chocolate, caffeine drinks, and MSG (often used in Chinese food).
  • Strong odors or cigarette smoke.
  • Changes in the weather.
  • Menstruation or other changes in hormones.
  • Being dehydrated.

Other tension headache triggers include:

  • Muscle strain in the neck or shoulders, sometimes from poor posture.
  • Grinding or clenching teeth.

Keep a headache diary

Keeping a headache diary(What is a PDF document?) helps you find a link between your child's headaches and the things that trigger them. Help your child write down when each headache starts, how long it lasts, where it hurts, and what the pain is like (throbbing, aching, stabbing, or dull).

Write down any other symptoms your child has with the headache, such as nausea or being sensitive to bright light or noise. List anything you think might have triggered the headache.

Remember that it might take up to 24 hours for some triggers to cause a headache. Other triggers can lead to a headache right away.

Show the headache diary to your child's doctor at each visit. The doctor can help you and your child figure out what the triggers are. When you know your child's triggers, you can help your child avoid those things.

To prevent migraines and tension headaches:

  • Find healthy ways to help your child manage stress. Don't let your child's schedule get too busy or filled with stressful events.
  • Make sure that your child drinks 4 to 8 glasses of fluid a day. Avoid drinks that have caffeine. Many popular soda drinks contain caffeine.
  • Make sure that your child gets plenty of sleep and keeps a regular sleep schedule. Most children need to sleep 8 to 10 hours each night.
  • Encourage your child to get plenty of exercise, without overdoing it.
  • Limit the amount of time your child spends in front of the TV and computer.
  • Make sure that your child does not skip meals. Provide regular, healthy meals.
  • Keep your child away from smoke. Do not smoke or let anyone else smoke around your child or in your house.
  • Talk to your child's teachers if your child is having problems with schoolwork. Make sure that the level and amount of schoolwork is appropriate for your child.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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