It is not possible to diagnose many headaches which occur in children. Children are usually taken to the doctor when medication given to them is ineffective or when headaches begin to impact their lives. Families tend to attribute childhood headaches to children wanting to avoid a day at school or a particular task. Migraines actually begin at an early age but are diagnosed upon adulthood.
Headaches occur between 5.9% and 82% of school age children. The most common cause of these childhood headaches are viral or bacterial infections. These headaches can persist until the infection has been treated.
The most frequently occurring childhood headaches are known as primary or tension type headaches and migraines. Children suffering from primary headaches describe the pain as usually being in the front of the skull. Children who experience headaches in the back of the head must be taken to see the doctor.
In comparison with adults, migraines during childhood are shorter. The location of childhood headaches is usually behind the forehead or on both sides of the heads. Headaches can be accompanied by other symptoms such as throbbing or pressure, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Severe headaches which have an adverse impact on the child’s daily routine can lead to children retreating to their rooms to sleep or become aggressive. Migraine attacks in children can last for up to two hours or less.
Migraines occur more frequently in school-age boys. However, the onset of hormonal changes means that migraines are more prevalent in girls during and after puberty.
Tension type headaches occur frequently during childhood. Children experiencing this type of headache usually complain of a feeling of pressure on either side of the head accompanied by a dull pain. The pain is not as intense as a migraine therefore there is no reason for this kind of a headache to have an impact on the daily activities of a child.
Children suffering from episodic tension type headaches may be frequently experiencing a stressful situation, or a desire to avoid school. Children suffering from chronic tension type headaches should be examined by a neurologist bearing in mind that stressful events such as parents divorcing, being bullied at school and physical abuse can also contribute to the occurrence of headaches.