This is for anyone looking after a child who is experiencing headaches.
How common are headaches in children?
Headaches are common in children and teenagers. They may be less obvious in younger children. They are often different from the sort of headaches that adults get, so parents and healthcare professionals may not notice them at first.
Headaches often start suddenly in children. Your child may look pale or unsettled, and the headache may make them feel sick or vomit. However children can recover quickly because their headaches, including migraines, tend to be short lived.
Children’s headaches can also affect their stomach, so a tummy ache is a common complaint.
What causes headaches in children?
Some lifestyle issues can cause headaches or make existing headaches worse. These include:
poor quality sleep (see More information section)
not drinking enough fluids
having much less to eat than usual
looking at screens for a long time (including TVs, tablets, phones)
eyesight problems. Children do not often complain about their eyesight, but headaches can be a sign of being unable to see properly. It is important that you take your child for an eye check. These are free for children under 16 years of age.
migraines. These are a particular type of headache that tend to run in families. Unlike adult migraines, child migraines can often affect both sides of the head.
emotional problems, for example problems at school or changes in family circumstances
using too much medication such as paracetamol (for example Calpol) or ibuprofen (for example Nurofen). Talk to your GP if you are giving your child medication to control a headache more than 3 times a week.
What is a headache diary?
A headache diary can enable your GP to identify trigger factors or the impact of medication on a headache. This can help them to make a diagnosis. If you keep a headache diary, you should take it with you to any GP or hospital appointment for your child.
It is a good idea to keep a record of when your child has a headache and record any accompanying change in their normal routine. For example a missed meal, a sports activity or a late night, or an emotionally upsetting incident. If your child is old enough, you can suggest they keep their own diary.
You can download a headache diary fromThe Migraine Trust (see More Information section). Headache diary apps are also available for your smartphone.
When do I take my child to a GP about their headaches?
You should make an urgent appointment with your GP if your child experiences any of the following:
frequent headaches. Particularly if the headache wakes them up in the middle of the night or they have a headache early in the morning.
balance or coordination problems
daily nausea or vomiting, especially if this happens early in the morning
their headache is worse when bending forwards
there is a change in their ability to see, or they experience blurred or double vision
a sudden change in behaviour
they are holding their head or neck in an unusual position.
When do I call 999 for an emergency ambulance?
You should call 999 if your child experiences one or more of the following:
a fit or seizure for the first time
a fit or seizure that continues for longer than 5 minutes.
When do I take my child to the nearest Emergency Department (A&E)?
You should call go to your nearest Emergency Department (A&E) if your child experiences one or more of the following:
A new headache which is much worse than before, especially if it causes pain across the back of their head.
A fever and a headache and a stiff neck, and they are complaining about the light. Or if they have a rash that does not fade away when you press the side of a glass firmly against the rash. These could be signs of meningitis.
Please speak to a member of staff before or during your visit to the hospital if you require translation.
Please contact the Patient Experience Team on 020 8934 3850 if you need this information in a different format.
For information accessibility please visit Kingston Hospital AccessAble www.accessable.co.uk/kingston-hospital-nhs-foundation-trust
Visit the hospital website, ask a member of staff, or ring us for details.
Switchboard 020 8546 7711
‘Find Us’ page for maps, transport, registering a blue badge, disabled access
Information, advice and support for patients and relatives (PALS) 020 8934 3993
Please speak to a member of staff before or during your visit to the hospital if you require translation support to access Patient Information. Please ring the phone number on your appointment letter, if you have one.
Request More Information
Please contact the Patient Experience Team on 020 893 3850 if you need this information in a different format.
For detailed information on accessibility at Kingston Hospital visit Kingston Hospital AccessAble (https://www.accessable.co.uk/kingston-hospital-nhs-foundation-trust).
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