You're having a perfectly good day when, all of a sudden,
your head starts to ache. You can't concentrate on what
you're doing because your head hurts so much. You might even
feel sick to your stomach.
What's going on here? Why do kids get headaches anyway? And
most importantly, how can you make the hurting go away or keep it
from happening? One thing's for sure: If you get headaches,
you're not alone. Lots of kids have headaches from time to
time. In fact, it's more unusual for someone not to have had a
headache at least once before his or her early teens. Let's
find out more about headaches and how you can stop them from
What Is a Headache?
Although it may feel like it, a headache is not a pain in your
. Your brain tells you when other parts of your body hurt, but it
can't actually feel
. Most headaches happen outside your skull, in the nerves, blood
vessels, and muscles that cover your head and neck. Sometimes the
muscles or blood vessels swell, which means they get larger.
They also can tighten or go through other changes that stimulate
or put pressure on the surrounding nerves. The nerves send a rush
of pain messages to your brain, and you end up with a headache.
Different Kinds of Headaches
The most common type of headache is a
, headache. This happens when stressed-out head or neck
keep squeezing too hard. When you get this kind of headache, the
pain is usually dull and constant. It might feel as though
something is pressing or squeezing on the front, back, or both
sides of your head.
Pain that's especially sharp and throbbing can be a sign of
a different kind of headache called a
-grayne). Migraine headaches aren't as common as tension
headaches, especially in kids, but they can still happen.
Sometimes, just before a migraine happens, the person sees wavy
lines or bright spots of light. This is called an
-uh). Also, kids who get migraines often feel sick to their
stomachs and sometimes
What Causes Tension and Migraine Headaches?
Sometimes a headache is just a part of another illness, such as
or strep throat. When you get better, the headache gets better,
too. If you're not sick, other triggers may cause a headache.
For example, staying up too late, skipping a meal, or playing in
the hot sun too long can set off a headache.
Excitement about a special event or worry about something (a
school exam, for instance) can also cause headaches. Some kids get
headaches from riding in a car or bus or from straining their eyes
by spending too much time watching TV or
using a computer
, such as perfume, smoke, fumes, or the smell of a new car or
carpet, can start a headache.
Some foods can cause headaches in some kids, such as bacon,
bologna, and hot dogs. The
in sodas, chocolate, coffee, and tea may cause headaches, too. Kids
don't need caffeine, so it's a good idea to limit it in
Sometimes no one knows why a kid gets headaches, but if you get
them, chances are someone in your family gets them, too. The
tendency to get headaches is often inherited. In other words, it
runs in the family.
Most headaches will go away after you've rested or slept
awhile. When you get one, the first thing you should do is tell an
adult, so he or she can help. Lie down in a cool, dark, quiet room
and close your eyes. Put a cool, moist cloth across your forehead
or eyes. Relax. Breathe easily and deeply.
A grown-up can give you a
pain relief medicine
-fun). You want to avoid taking aspirin for a headache because it
may cause a rare but dangerous disease called
When Should You Go to a Doctor?
Headaches are very rarely a sign of anything serious, such as a
brain tumor or meningitis. This is especially true for kids.
Headache triggers such as eating certain foods, being stressed out,
or not getting enough sleep are much more likely causes of
headaches in kids. Or sometimes, there's no obvious reason at
Still, there are times when your mom or dad should talk with the
doctor about your headaches:
- when a headache is particularly painful
- when a headache doesn't go away easily
- when a headache follows an injury, such as hitting your
- when your vision is affected
- when you feel tingling sensations
- when you just don't seem like your usual self
- when headaches occur once a month or more
- when headaches cause you to miss school
A doctor can help you and your parents figure out why you're
getting headaches and might be able to help you keep them from
happening so often. Sometimes relaxation exercises or changes in
diet or sleeping habits are all that's needed. If necessary, a
doctor also can prescribe medication to control headaches.
If you're bothered by headaches, you don't have to put
up with the pain. Sometimes relief is just a nap away. Other times,
seeing a doctor may be necessary. But there's almost always
something that you, your parents, and your doctor can do to
Updated and reviewed by:
Margaret C. McBride, MD
Date reviewed: December 2007
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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