Headaches In Children

Causes Of Headaches In Children

We think about adults getting headaches, but often don’t expect to see them in children. However, it is perfectly normal for kids to get headaches, and they get them for the same reasons adults do.

Headaches are frequently caused by stress, hunger, lack of sleep, environmental triggers, mild head trauma, physical exertion, a food reaction, or a migraine. They can also be caused by a viral illness — resulting from a fever, earache, or nasal congestion. Very rarely, headaches are caused by more serious problems like a brain tumor or bleeding in the brain. Headaches are most common in children with a family history of headaches, older teens, or girls after they have reached puberty.

How To Treat Headaches At Home

Children who have only occasional headaches can be treated at home with over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen. Be careful to use pain medications only as directed, and when age-appropriate. Overusing pain medications can lead to rebound headaches, especially when taken with caffeine (commonly found in sodas, chocolate, or over-the-counter migraine medications.) If your child has to take pain medication more than a couple times per week, be sure to talk to your pediatrician at MacKoul. Avoid using aspirin for children or teenagers, as it has been linked to Reye’s Syndrome.

Headaches can also be treated by laying down to rest with a cold compress on the forehead. If your child hasn’t eaten in a while, try offering your child some food or juice. Unless a headache is severe, children can attend school after taking some pain medication or taking a quick rest in the nurse’s office with a cold compress.

Causes of Recurring Headaches

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are the most common type of recurrent headaches. A child with a tension headache may complain of a dull pain on both sides of the forehead or a feeling of tightness around the head or neck. Tension headaches are frequently caused by lack of sleep, anxiety, stress, or staring at a computer screen for too long in one position. Learning how to manage stress can help reduce your child’s tension headaches.


Migraines are not as common but can occur in children, teenagers, and even babies. Migraines can be incredibly painful and interrupt your child’s ability to function. A child with a migraine may complain of a throbbing pain that is only on one side that gets worse with exertion or around lights and sound. Your child might also feel nauseous or vomit. Migraines are usually managed by medication, sleep, and identifying and avoiding triggers.

When Should You Call Your Local Pediatrician

Headaches usually aren’t serious; however, you will want to call your pediatrician here at MacKoul Pediatrics if your child’s headaches are:
  • Accompanied by vomiting or a fever and neck pain.
  • Interfering with your child’s sleep.
  • Increasing in frequency or severity.
  • Causing a change in personality.
  • Resulting from a head injury.
  • Causing vision problems.
  • Lasting longer than three days, or if there are no other symptoms, longer than 24 hours.
  • Interfering with your child’s ability to function at school.

If you have concern, please don't hesitate to give us a call to schedule an appointment. MacKoul Pediatrics of Cape Coral is here to help your child be as healthy and as happy as possible, and we are here to help answer any questions you might have. Just give us a call at (239) 573-2001.