Self-management

Lifestyle and home remedies

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:

  • 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.

Prevention

The following may help you prevent headaches or reduce the severity of headaches in children:

  • Practice healthy behaviors. Behaviors that promote general good health also may help prevent headaches for your child. These lifestyle measures include getting plenty of sleep, staying physically active, eating healthy meals and snacks, drinking four to eight glasses of water daily, and avoiding caffeine.
  • Reduce stress. Stress and busy schedules may increase the frequency of headaches. Be alert for things that may cause stress in your child's life, such as difficulty doing schoolwork or strained relationships with peers. If your child's headaches are linked to anxiety or depression, consider talking to a counselor.
  • Keep a headache diary. A diary can help you determine what causes your child's headaches. Note when the headaches start, how long they last and what, if anything, provides relief.
  • Record your child's response to taking any headache medication. Over time, the items you note in the headache diary should help you understand your child's symptoms so that you can take specific preventive measures.

  • Avoid headache triggers. Avoid any food or drinks, such as those containing caffeine, that seem to trigger headaches. Your headache diary can help you determine what prompts your child's headaches, so you know what to avoid.
  • Follow your doctor's plan. Your doctor may recommend preventive medication if the headaches are severe, occur daily and interfere with your child's normal lifestyle. Certain medications taken at regular intervals — such as certain antidepressants or anti-seizure medications — may reduce the frequency and severity of headaches.
May 05, 2016
References
  1. Bonthius DJ, et al. Headache in children: Approach to evaluation and general management strategies. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 4, 2016.
  2. Headaches in children. American Headache Society. http://www.achenet.org/resources/headaches_in_children/. Accessed April 4, 2016.
  3. 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.
  4. Cruse RP. Pathophysiology, clinical features, and diagnosis of migraine in children. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 4, 2016.
  5. Children's headache disorders. National Headache Foundation. http://www.headaches.org/headaches-in-children/. Accessed April 5, 2016.
  6. Hershey AD. Pediatric headache. Continuum. 2015;21:1132.
  7. Kedia S. Complementary and integrative approaches for pediatric headache. Seminars in Neurology. 2016;23:44.