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    How Are Headaches Diagnosed in Children and Teens?

    Once your child gets the right headache diagnosis, she can start a treatment plan that’s most likely to make her feel better.

    The first step is to take your child to the doctor. She’ll do a complete physical exam and ask about your child's headache history -- what kind of pain your child has, how often it happens, and if anything makes it better or worse. You and your child will need to describe the symptoms as completely as you can.

    Most of the time, a doctor can make a diagnosis from the symptoms you describe, but sometimes your child might get a CT scan or MRI to give the doctor more information. Both of these tests make detailed pictures of the brain that can show any problem areas that could cause headaches.

    If your child's symptoms get worse or happen more often even after treatment, ask your child's doctor to refer you to a headache specialist.

    How Are Headaches Treated in Children and Teens?

    Your doctor may recommend different types of headache treatment, and it can take some time to find one that really works. Keep an open, honest communication with your doctor about what helps your child and what doesn’t.

    The best treatment will depend on the type of headache your child has and how often it happens, its cause, and her age. Options may include:

    • Track symptoms: Notice and record the things that trigger your child's headache, such as lack of sleep, not eating at regular times, certain foods or ingredients, caffeine, her environment, or stress. Help your child keep a headache diary with this information and avoid the triggers that seem to bring on the problem.
    • Stress management: For tension headaches, it’s important for kids and their parents to figure out what causes the problem. Then you can learn ways to deal with the things that are stressing her out.
    • Biofeedback: Special equipment uses sensors you connect to your child’s body to monitor how she responds to headaches, such as changes in her breathing, pulse, heart rate, temperature, muscle tension, and brain activity. When she learns to recognize these physical reactions and how her body responds in stressful situations, she can learn how to release and control tension that causes headaches.
    • Medications:  Many of the drugs that treat adult headaches are OK in smaller doses to treat headaches in children and teens. But you should not give your child aspirin if she’s under age 19. It can cause Reye's syndrome, a rare but fatal condition in young kids.
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