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's the most likely cause of the symptoms?
- Are tests needed to confirm the diagnosis?
- What treatments are available and which do you recommend?
- 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?
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, including:
- When did the symptoms start? Have they changed over time?
- 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?
- Does anything make your child's symptoms better?
- Does anything make the symptoms worse?
- 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.
May 05, 2016
- Bonthius DJ, et al. Headache in children: Approach to evaluation and general management strategies. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 4, 2016.
- Headaches in children. American Headache Society. http://www.achenet.org/resources/headaches_in_children/. Accessed April 4, 2016.
- Tintinalli JE, et al. Headache in children. In: Tintinalli's Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide. 7th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw Hill Companies; 2011. http://www.accessmedicine.com. Accessed April 4, 2016.
- Cruse RP. Pathophysiology, clinical features, and diagnosis of migraine in children. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 4, 2016.
- Children's headache disorders. National Headache Foundation. http://www.headaches.org/headaches-in-children/. Accessed April 5, 2016.
- Hershey AD. Pediatric headache. Continuum. 2015;21:1132.
- Kedia S. Complementary and integrative approaches for pediatric headache. Seminars in Neurology. 2016;23:44.