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When children experience migraines and other headaches, their quality of life both at home and at school can be affected. Genetically-influenced changes in the nerves and blood vessels in the head and face likely cause migraines and other headache disorders. If your child has frequent headaches, he or she may need to be evaluated and treated by a doctor.
Types of headaches include:
Chronic tension headaches are the most common type of headache in children that leads to medical evaluation.
Typical tension headache symptoms include:
Migraine headaches may follow four phases:
Symptoms vary for other headache types.
Although headaches are not often medically harmful, they can cause your child to miss school and other activities. Frequent and recurring headaches are also associated with anxiety, depression and sleep disorders.
The first step is to rule out any underlying medical issues that may be causing the headaches. Next, your child’s doctor will ask about certain headache triggers, such as lack of sleep or poor diet. The doctor will also ask a series of questions to pinpoint the specific type of headache causing your child's pain. This will be followed by a physical exam.
In most patients with headache disorders, medical tests are unable to determine the specific cause of the headaches. If there is concern that the headaches may be due to an underlying medical condition based on their description or a physical exam finding, further testing may include:
At Riley at IU Health, a team of neurologists and other pediatric specialists—including experts in pain management, psychology, nutrition and sleep medicine—manage migraine and headache disorders.
The goal of treatment is to prevent your child’s headaches and reduce symptoms when headaches do occur, so your child can fully participate in his or her daily routine. Treatments for migraines and headaches are specific to the type of headache and are tailored to the individual patient. Therapies focus on reducing frequency and severity of headache attacks, and patients are frequently re-evaluated to gauge their progress.
Treatment options include:
Lifestyle adjustments also can help decrease headaches. Regular and adequate sleep is essential. Regular meals, including breakfast, will prevent headaches triggered by fasting. Good hydration is also important. Overuse of caffeine or over-the-counter pain medicines may actually increase the frequency of headaches and should be avoided.
Visit the links below to learn more about migraines and headaches and find support groups.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
This government website provides information about treatment and research related to migraines.
Learn more about treatment for headaches from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
In addition to our primary hospital location at the Academic Health Center in Indianapolis, IN, we have convenient locations to better serve our communities throughout the state.
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