Like adults, children commonly experience headaches, but the pain is usually not serious. Over-the-counter pain relievers work well to relieve headache pain and help your child feel better again. 

But when should a headache make you concerned that something is “off” with your child? 

Headaches in Children

Like adults, children’s headaches can be caused by many things including:

  • A virus or cold
  • An injury (such as hitting the head)
  • Stress
  • Too much caffeine
  • Excessive exercise
  • Poor nutrition
  • Pain from ear infections
  • Sinus problems
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Allergies
  • Medication side effects
  • Other medical conditions

Some of these causes may seem obvious, like an injury, infection or sinus problem. But others might surprise you, such as poor nutrition or dehydration. 

Children can also suffer from different types of headaches, including tension headaches, cluster headaches and recurrent headaches such as migraine headaches, all of which can cause severe pain for your little one. 

When Should You Worry About Your Child’s Headaches? 

You should always pay attention to and treat any symptoms your child has; normally over-the-counter medicines can help them feel better. However, if you notice any of the following symptoms, you should consider contacting your doctor:

1. When your child has a fever and complains of a stiff neck. A headache accompanied by these two conditions could indicate an infection known as meningitis.

2. When your child has had a recent injury and complains of pain behind his eyes. This could be due to a concussion as a result of a head injury. Another indicator of a concussion is vomiting. 

3. When your child’s head pain is accompanied by muscle weakness or difficulty walking, talking or doing normal activities. Also let the doctor know if your child is experiencing double vision, loss of vision, blurred vision or other vision changes.

4. When your child has been diagnosed with epilepsy and complains of headaches. Epilepsy is a neurological condition that affects how the brain functions. 

5. When your child has head pain and experiences persistent vomiting over 24 hours. This could be a sign of dehydration.

6. When your child has complained of being dizzy or lightheaded. This could mean that your child has low blood sugar levels.

7. When head pain is interrupting your child’s daily life or waking your child from sleep.

8. When your child has a severe headache that does not improve with pain medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, you should contact your health care provider. 

9. When your child experiences head pain frequently. Chronic headaches can be an indicator of something more serious. 

10. Sleep apnea.

Another cause of headaches in children is poor sleep or a lack of sleep. If your child has trouble sleeping at night, he could have more frequent headaches during the day. A potential cause for sleeping difficulty can be the sleep breathing disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Learn more about your child’s development with sleep apnea here.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea? 

Sleep apnea is a condition in which your child stops breathing repeatedly while asleep. It happens most frequently when your child sleeps on his back, and it can be a consequence of a small airway, enlarged adenoids and tonsils, or a jaw that is set too far back. 

Other causes of sleep apnea in children include:

  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Having Down syndrome
  • Cleft palate
  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Other respiratory disorders
  • A large tongue

How Does Sleep Apnea Cause Headaches in Children? 

The repeated stopping of breathing during sleep causes changes in blood pressure and heart rate. These changes can lead to increased blood flow to the brain, causing headaches. The body also releases chemicals into the bloodstream that affect the brain. This can result in irritability, drowsiness, tiredness, mood swings, depression and even seizures. 

If your child has OSA, it will likely cause him to wake up several times per hour during the night. He may complain of feeling sleepy during the day. 

Other signs of sleep apnea in children include: 

  • Snoring
  • Frequent pauses between breaths
  • Loud snorting sounds
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking up in the middle of the night
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Inattention
  • Hyperactivity
  • Tiredness
  • Lack of energy

How Can You Help Headaches in Children? 

It is important to help your child feel better. Try these tips:

1. Give your child plenty of fluids throughout the day.

2. Avoid caffeine after noon. Caffeine can make headaches worse.

3. Make sure your child gets enough rest.

4. Keep track of any symptoms your child is having in a headache diary so that you know what to look out for.

5. Talk to us about how we can help find the root cause of their head pain and how we can treat it.

Call us to schedule a consultation today!