Kids Suffer Too
Most headaches affecting children are classified as either tension or migraine. Tension headaches are the most common and are said to affect 40 percent of all children by age seven.
"Headaches in children are characterized by long duration with frequent sharp pain and may be related to stress, depression and anxiety," says pediatric neurologist Chris Miller, MD, of East Tennessee Children's Hospital . "The intensity of these headaches is moderate to severe when frequent, and mild to moderate when rare."
Peer pressure, school phobia and family problems are typical environmental factors attributed to the onset of tension headaches. Many physicians believe that family counseling and changes in the child's school or home environment are the best remedies.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, stress or tension headaches represent the majority of all headaches experienced by children.
Migraines, on the other hand, are not related to tension and usually require more treatment.
Migraines are said to make up 40 percent of all chronic headaches in children and affect five percent of all children. These headaches are characterized by accompanied abdominal discomfort, throbbing pain in one or both sides of the head, and severe pain, which is relieved by sleep.
The intensity of migraine headaches is described as moderate to severe with a duration rarely lasting more than 24 hours. Dr Miller says contributing factors to migraine headaches may include sensitivity to certain foods, light or loss of sleep. Also, there is often a strong family history of the condition. Similar symptoms in the parents or grandparents can be found in 75 percent of childhood migraine patients.
Over-the-counter medications are often effective for minor headaches. However, frequent use of these medications may be an indication of a more significant problem. In addition, aspirin has been linked to the cause of Reye's Syndrome, a rare brain disease in children, and parents should use caution when giving their children aspirin.
Although we think of headaches as a natural problem everyone must deal with at one time or another, some symptoms might be the result of a more serious condition. Headaches that are accompanied by vomiting, changes in vision, fever, neck pain or sleeping problems may be signs of a serious neurological disorder. A child with these symptoms should be seen by a pediatrician if the symptoms persist longer than several days at a time.