Headaches in Children Questions and Answers
Our urgent care clinic provides excellent care, diagnosis, and treatment for children who suffer with headaches. Walk-ins are welcome.
While most children will experience a minor headache at some point, if your child is experiencing frequent or severe headaches with concerning symptoms, you may need to bring your child in for a doctor visit. At Night Lite Pediatrics, we have experienced pediatricians who would be pleased to provide your child with excellent medical care and treatment for headaches.
What is a headache?
In the simplest of terms, a headache is pain or discomfort experienced in the head, face, or upper neck area. While it may feel like your brain is experiencing the pain, it cannot feel pain itself but is instead responsible for the sensation of pain, as it informs the various parts of your body when they are injured. With that in mind, headaches are pain experienced in the blood vessels, muscles, and nerves of your head, face, or upper neck.
What are the different types of headaches?
Headaches can be classified into two categories with various sub-categories involved. With that said, the different types of headaches are as follows:
• Primary headaches: primary headaches are those that are not directly linked to another medical condition. The most common types of primary headaches include cluster headaches, migraines, and tension headaches.
• Cluster headaches: more common in children over ten years of age, cluster headaches occur in a series of five or more episodes that each last less than three hours. These episodes can occur anywhere from once every other day to eight in one day.
• Migraines: migraines are a neurological condition that is very common among children and adults alike. The different types of migraines include migraine with aura, migraine without aura, and migraine aura without headache. Migraine aura refers to sensory disturbances experienced before, during, or after a migraine. Migraines can start in early childhood and affect one in five teenagers.
• Tension headaches: tension headaches are the most common type of headache and often occur due to tightness in the head or neck muscles when a person is experiencing emotional or mental stress.
• Secondary headaches: secondary headaches are much less common than primary headaches and occur due to structural problems within the brain or another medical condition, such as a brain tumor, concussion, hypertension, or others. Examples of secondary headaches include sinus headaches, spinal headaches, and thunderclap headaches.
What are the Symptoms?
The symptoms of a headache typically depend on the type of headache that the individual is experiencing.
Symptoms of cluster headaches include sharp or stabbing pain on one side of the head, often behind one eye, which may have a small pupil, tear production, droopy lid, or swelling and redness of the eyelid, as well as congestion, runny nose, and forehead swelling.
A migraine can occur with several different symptoms, depending on the type of migraine. With that said, migraines most often happen with throbbing pain on one side of the head but can also occur with symptoms of nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light or sound, as well as various neurological symptoms, such as numbness or tingling in one’s face or extremities with or without a headache.
Tension headaches are often experienced as a dull pain that is mild to moderate in severity. The pain often feels like a band around the head or is felt at the base of the head and upper part of the neck. In general, tension headaches do not worsen with physical activity, nor do they occur with nausea or vomiting.
What are the Causes?
While the precise cause of headaches is not entirely understood, headaches can occur due to several different factors or medical conditions, such as the following:
- Emotional or mental stress
- Family history of headaches, especially with migraines
- Foods that contain nitrites
- Head trauma
- Health problems within the brain, such as a brain tumor, abscess, or bleeding in the brain
- Hormonal changes
- Illness or infection
- Lack of sleep or poor sleep quality
- Muscle tightness in the head or neck
- Neurological issues
- Poor posture
How are headaches diagnosed?
Headaches are typically diagnosed through a thorough medical evaluation and neurological exam followed by any necessary diagnostic tests. The medical evaluation will consist of the individual’s personal and family medical history and various questions about the location, symptoms, and patterns involved with the individual’s headaches. During the neurological exam, the doctor will assess if the individual has any problems with coordination, movement, or sensation. Depending on what is discovered during the medical evaluation and neurological exam, further testing may be required, such as a CT scan, MRI, or blood test.
When to see a doctor?
While most headaches are not a serious medical concern, you should see a doctor if you or your child are experiencing such symptoms as the following:
- Frequent or worsening headaches
- Headaches that disrupt sleep, work, or everyday activities
- Headaches caused by a head injury
- Neck pain or stiffness
- Persistent vomiting or visual changes
- Personality changes
If your child is experiencing frequent or severe headaches, we welcome you to come to see us at Night Lite Pediatrics. Simply walk in. No appointment needed!