Typically, you make an appointment with your family doctor or your child's pediatrician. Depending on the frequency and severity of your child's symptoms, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in conditions of the brain and nervous system (neurologist).
Here's information to help you get ready for your child's appointment and to know what to expect from the doctor.
What you can do
- Write down your child's signs and symptoms, when they occurred, and how long they lasted. It may help to keep a headache diary — listing each headache, when it happens, how long it lasts and what might have caused it.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements your child is taking.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
For headaches in children, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is likely causing the symptoms?
- Are tests needed to confirm the diagnosis?
- What is the best course of action?
- Does my child need prescription medication, or would an over-the-counter medication work?
- What follow-up, if any, is needed?
- What can we do at home to lessen the pain?
- What can we do at home to prevent headaches?
Don't hesitate to ask any other questions you have.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, including:
- When did the symptoms start?
- How often does your child experience these symptoms?
- How long does the headache usually last?
- Where does the pain occur?
- Have the symptoms been continuous or intermittent?
- Does your child have other symptoms, such as nausea or dizziness?
- What, if anything, makes it better?
- What, if anything, makes it worse?
- Have the symptoms changed over time?
- What treatments have you tried?
- What medications does your child take?
- Do other family members get headaches?
What you can do in the meantime
Until you see your child's doctor, if your child has a headache, place a cool, wet cloth on your child's forehead and encourage him or her to rest in a dark, quiet room.
Consider giving your child over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Children's Motrin, others) to ease symptoms. 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.
June 26, 2013
- 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.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.