OTC pain medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), are usually effective in reducing headache pain. Before giving your child pain medication, keep these points in mind:
- Read labels carefully and use only the dosages recommended for your child.
- Don't give doses more frequently than recommended.
- Don't give your child OTC pain medication more than two or three days a week. Daily use can trigger a rebound headache, a type of headache caused by overuse of pain medications.
- Use caution when giving aspirin to children or teenagers. Though aspirin is approved for use in children older than age 2, children and teenagers recovering from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms should never take aspirin. This is because aspirin has been linked to Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition, in such children. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns.
In addition to OTC pain medications, the following can help ease your child's headache:
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- Rest and relaxation. Encourage your child to rest in a dark, quiet room. Sleeping often resolves headaches in children.
- Use a cool, wet compress. While your child rests, place a cool, wet cloth on his or her forehead.
- Offer a healthy snack. If your child hasn't eaten in a while, offer a piece of fruit, whole-wheat crackers or low-fat cheese. Not eating can make headaches worse.
- Tintinalli JE, et al. Tintinalli's Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide. 7th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2011. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=40. Accessed April 15, 2013.
- Headaches in children. American Headache Society. http://www.achenet.org/resources/headaches_in_children/. Accessed April 15, 2013.
- Arruda MA, et al. Frequent headaches in the preadolescent pediatric population: A population-based study. Neurology. 2010;74:903.
- Robberstad L, et al. An unfavorable lifestyle and recurrent headaches among adolescents: The HUNT Study. Neurology. 2010;75:712.
- Seshia SS. Chronic daily headache in children and adolescents. Current Pain and Headache Reports. 2012;16:60.
- Monteith TS, et al. Tension type headache in adolescence and childhood: Where are we now? Current Pain and Headache Reports. 2010;14:424.
- Arruda MA, et al. Cluster headache in children and adolescents: Ten years of follow-up in three pediatric cases. Cephalalgia. 2011;31:409.
- Treatment of migraine headache in children and adolescents. American Academy of Neurology. www.aan.com/practice/guideline/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.view&guideline=159. Accessed April 16, 2013.