Your Child's Headache or Migraine
Headaches aren’t just an adult problem. They’re very common for children and teens. In one study, 56% of boys and 74% of girls between ages 12 and 17 reported having a headache within the past month. Kids generally get the same types of headaches as adults do. By age 15, 5% of all kids have had migraines and 15% have had tension headaches.
You might worry that a child's headache is the sign of a more serious problem, like a brain tumor, but that’s not true for most of kids’ headaches. You can track their symptoms, find treatments, and help your child learn ways to feel better.
What Causes Headaches in Children and Teens?
Most kids get headaches because of an illness, infection, cold, or fever. Other conditions that can cause headaches include sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses), and infections in their throat or ear.
Migraines are a different story. Doctors don’t know exactly what causes them, although they do know they are related to physical and chemical changes in the brain as well as genes that parents pass to their kids.
About 70% of kids who have migraines have a family member who also has them or did in childhood. They may even have the same migraine triggers that a relative does, such as fatigue, bright lights, and changes in weather.
Other migraine triggers can be stress, anxiety, depression, a change in sleep patterns, loud noises, or some foods. Too much physical activity or too much sun can make a migraine start in some kids, too. Girls can also get them because of hormone changes when they get their periods.
Common causes of tension headaches include stress from school, family, or friends. Other causes include eyestrain and neck or back strain from poor posture. Depression may also be a reason your child is having headaches.
While most headaches are harmless, when they get worse over time and happen along with other symptoms such as loss of vision, speech problems, or muscle weakness, they can be the sign of a more serious problem.
If your child has any of these symptoms with her headache, take her to the doctor right away.