Headache in children


Children often experience headaches, which manifest as pain in their head or facial region. Headaches are a common occurrence in children and are typically not a cause for concern. Similar to adults, children can experience various types of headaches, such as migraines or tension headaches related to stress. Additionally, some children may suffer from chronic daily headaches. 

Headaches in children can sometimes be caused by factors such as infections, high levels of stress or anxiety, lifestyle factors, or minor head injuries. It is essential to carefully monitor these symptoms, especially if they intensify or become more frequent.

Headaches in children often resolve more swiftly than in adults. Treatment options for children’s headaches typically include overthecounter (OTC) pain relievers and the establishment of healthy routines, such as maintaining regular eating and sleeping schedules.


The symptoms of headaches in children vary depending on the type of headache and can be different than those of adults. It may be challenging to identify a child’s specific headache type due to differences in symptoms, particularly in younger children who are unable to express their symptoms.

Generally, certain symptoms often align more commonly with specific categories of headache.

  • Migraine: 
    • Pulsating or throbbing pain
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Abdominal pain
    • Pain that intensifies with physical exertion
    • Severe sensitivity to sound and light

Migraines can occur in infants and children. When a child is in severe pain but is too young to communicate it, they may sob or rock back and forth.

  • Tensiontype headache: The duration of tensiontype headaches ranges from a thirty minutes to several days. Younger kids might stop participating in routine play and prefer to sleep more.
    • Nonpulsating mild to moderate pain on both sides of the head
    • A sensation of tightness or pressure in the muscles of the head or neck
    • Absence of accompanying nausea or vomiting, which is often associated with migraines
    • Pain that does not intensify with physical activity
  • Cluster headache: Children under the age of 10 rarely experience cluster headaches. It usually occurs in sets of five or more episodes, with the frequency of headaches varying from one every other day to eight a day. Other signs and symptoms commonly include:
    • Involve less than three hours of sharp, stabbing pain on one side of the head
    • Restlessness or agitation
    • Teariness
    • Congestion
    • Runny nose
  • Chronic daily headache: Chronic daily headaches (CDH) can be brought on by an infection, a small head injury, or overusing painkillers, including overthecounter ones. Migraines and tensiontype headaches that happen more than 15 days a month are referred to as chronic daily headache.”

If any of the signs and symptoms persist or are noticed in children, it’s advisable to seek guidance from a healthcare provider for a thorough diagnosis. While most headaches in children are generally not a cause for significant concern, it’s crucial to stay vigilant for specific warning signals.

  • Urgent medical assistance may be necessary in cases when there is a sudden worsening or increased frequency of headaches, a headache that awakens the child from sleep, headaches that follow an injury, such as a blow to the head, persistent vomiting or visual disturbances accompanying the headaches, or if the headaches are accompanied by fever and neck pain or stiffness and also if there is a change in the personality of the child.


Children’s headaches can have a variety of causes. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Illness and infection: Basic medical conditions like the flu, colds, sinus infections, and ear infections, may be associated with headaches. However, it’s worth noting that meningitis and encephalitis, though possible, very rarely result in headaches.
  • Genetic predisposition: Headaches, especially migraines, often have a genetic predisposition.
  • Head injuries: Headaches can be a result of bumps and bruises. If a child experiences a significant head impact or their head pain worsens after an injury, it is important to seek immediate medical attention
  • Emotional factors: Headaches are a common complaint among depressed children, especially if they have difficulty identifying their emotions of sadness and loneliness. Kids can get headaches because they are stressed or anxious. This can happen when they have issues with friends, teachers, or their parents.
  • Certain foods and beverages: Excessive caffeine intake found in beverages like soda, chocolates, and sports drinks has the potential to trigger headaches. The food additive MSG and nitrates, a type of food preservative commonly present in cured meats like bacon, bologna, and hot dogs, can trigger headaches.
  • Brainrelated issues: Persistent headaches that get worse with time, including vision issues, lightheadedness, and loss of coordination are among the symptoms brought on by pressure on certain parts of the brain due to brain tumor, abscess, or hemorrhage.

Risk factors

Children frequently have headaches. However, majority of the cases of headaches in children occur among

  • Older teenagers
  • Girls, following the puberty years
  • Kids with a family history of migraines or headaches

20% of kids between the ages of 5 and 17 have admitted to having headaches. Tension headaches and migraines, which are the most prevalent types of headaches in this age group, are both recorded.