Hey mom, my head hurts! Kids and Headaches

Unfortunately, children can get the same types of headaches as adults. While some children may have inherited a predisposition for headaches from a parent, lifestyle and daily habits can also have an impact on this painful condition. Sometimes, improvements and changes in these areas along with result in significant benefits without the need for medication:

SLEEP: It is important that children get enough quality sleep every 24 hours:
• Infants ages 4 to 12 months need 12 to 16 hours of sleep, including naps.
• Toddlers need 11 to 14 hours, including naps.
• Preschoolers ages 3 to 5 years need 10 to 13 hours including naps.
• Gradeschoolers from ages 6 to 12 years need 9 to 12 hours of sleep.
• Teens ages 13 to 18 years need at least 8 to 10 hours of sleep.
Be sure to arrange or adjust your family’s schedule to allow for enough sleep, including weekends. Regular bedtimes and waking times will help establish a good sleeping schedule. Too little sleep is likely to worsen headache burden.

FOOD: Missing meals and becoming very hungry can be a headache trigger for some children. Be sure to provide regularly scheduled meals every day, including breakfast, lunch and dinner. In addition, some parents are able to identify particular food triggers for their child’s headaches. See if any foods consistently cause headaches for your child. Some commonly reported food triggers may include bananas, strawberries, chocolate, strongly flavored cheeses, and Asian foods with MSG.

HYDRATION: Maintaining good hydration is also important. Make sure your child drinks plenty of water during the daytime and increase their water intake if they are participating in sports and sweating. During our hot southern California summers, it’s also important to stay hydrated. A good general rule is for your child to drink enough water that they have to visit the restroom at least two to three times a day.

CAFFEINE: Children can be sensitive to caffeine. Consuming caffeine on a regular basis can increase their risk for severe headaches as their body will become used to it. Try to avoid caffeine in general, though the occasional soda or beverage with caffeine will not be harmful.

EXERCISE: Regular exercise will help prevent headaches. Find a physical activity that your child enjoys and spend at least 30 minutes per week doing that activity. Some school-age children will get plenty of exercise in team sports, but few will get enough with a school PE class.

There are other causes for headaches including illness and stress. If your child is suffering ongoing, severe pain and lifestyle modifications are not helping, be sure to schedule an appointment with your CPCMG pediatrician.