Kids and Headaches: Is It All in Their Heads?
Treatment options are tied to the type of headache, its frequency, and its causes. It's imperative that a child gets a full evaluation to rule out serious causes and find an individualized solution. There are a variety of medications available -- both to prevent a headache and to stop an already-existing one -- including over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Unfortunately, most of the prescription drugs given to children are only FDA-approved for adults. That does not mean they're unsafe, just untested as of yet. Experienced physicians like Rothner do use them when needed in severe cases. Rothner says study results for a few of those drugs in children under 17 years of age should be published soon.
"Some very good therapies that have nothing to do with medication include good personal hygiene, a good sleep schedule, a regular activities schedule," Diamond says. "Make sure kids aren't skipping meals and keep them well-hydrated when playing sports." She also is a proponent of biofeedback and relaxation techniques that can help stop a headache before it fully develops.
Rothner, too, encourages biofeedback and counseling for tension headaches and, in the case of occasional migraines, sleep. He also says children should be encouraged to continue living as normally as possible, including going to school.