HEADACHES IN CHILDREN

Four out of five children sometimes have a headache. The most common cause is a viral infection such as a cold or the flu. Children and adolescents can also get tension-type headaches and migraine headaches. Unfortunately, our children are inheriting and embracing the stressful, fast-paced modern life style.

Up to 5 percent of the children in grade school suffer from migraine headaches. During the high school years, about 20 percent of American adolescents get migraine headaches. These headaches are more common in girls than in boys. Boys who get migraines have them more often when they are about 10 to 12 years old. It is not unusual for them to have two to three migraine headaches a week.

Migraine headaches seem to be caused by changes in the level of a body chemical called serotonin. Serotonin performs many functions in your body, and it can have an effect on the blood vessels. When serotonin levels are high, blood vessels shrink and narrow. When serotonin levels fall, the blood vessels widen and swell. This swelling can cause pain or other problems.

When your child is suffering from any type of headache, you should have them lie down in a cool, dark place. Give them a wet cloth to place across their forehead. If the doctor has given your child a medicine for headaches or migraines, your child should take it as soon as he knows a headache is starting. Don’t wait! Toughing it out, rarely works. If your child feels nausea followed by vomiting, your doctor can also prescribe a medicine for that.

There are a few lifestyle changes you can make to reduce the number of headaches your child experiences. These are beneficial for your child and the rest of the family in many other ways besides preventing headaches. Your family should eat regularly and not skip meals. The family should all try to keep a regular sleep schedule; 8 hours a night is recommended.

You should be aware of the long list of headache triggers and try to avoid your child’s exposure to them. About one third of the individuals who experience migraines can identify their food triggers. You just need to help your child avoid the food. At home, it is easy, but you will have to train your child to ask about ingredients and food preparation when he’s out and about at friend’s house or at school.

Too much physical activity, certain activities or stressors are well known headache triggers. Day to day life stress can be a factor in your child’s headaches. Your doctor can provide stress management techniques to help your child, in fact the whole family, to reduce stress and avoid headaches as well as other serious conditions.

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