Headaches in Children

Children can get headaches just like adults do. Although headaches in children usually aren’t a symptom of a serious condition, they can affect your child’s daily life. Headaches can interfere with your child’s school performance, play, sports activities and daily routines.

At Henry Ford Health, our neurologists have experience in treating children with headaches. We provide care that relieves headaches so your child can get back to the activities they enjoy.

What are headaches in children?

Headaches include pain felt in the head, face or neck, and they can happen from time to time or even daily. The two main categories of headaches are:

  • Primary headaches in children usually result from migraine or muscle tension in the head and neck. Some children can have both types.
  • Secondary headaches result from another medical condition and are rare.

Headache care for children at Henry Ford: Why choose us?

Our pediatric headache specialists carefully evaluate your child’s symptoms to find out what’s causing headaches and tailor a treatment plan to their needs.

Highlights of our program include:

  • Expertise in pediatric care: Our team includes specialists from several fields of medicine. At our Headache and Facial Pain Center, our doctors have additional years of specialized training in neurology. They have also received certification from the United Council for Neurologic Subspecialties. Together, we provide exceptional care for infants, children and teens with headaches.
  • Family-focused approach: In extended visits, we meet with your family as a group to get to know you, your needs and your goals. Our one-hour appointments provide plenty of time for education and counseling to help you and your child understand headaches and ways to cope.
  • Multidisciplinary care for headaches: Your child receives care from neurologists, psychologists, neuropsychologists, pain management specialists, specialized nurses and integrative medicine experts. Our treatments go beyond medications to include nonmedical options that support your child’s overall well-being.

Types of headaches in children

Children have the same types of headaches as adults do, but the signs and symptoms can vary. The various types of primary headaches and their symptoms include:

Migraines in children

Migraines can affect children at any age, even infants, with symptoms such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea, vomiting or stomachache
  • Pain that worsens with physical activity
  • Pounding or throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head
  • Sensitivity to sound and light

Tension headaches in children

This type can last from a half hour to several days, causing symptoms that include:

  • Constant, mild to moderate pain on both sides of the head
  • Pressure and tightness in head or neck muscles
  • Slowly developing pain

Cluster headaches in children

Cluster headaches usually affect children older than age 10 with symptoms including:

  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Forehead swelling
  • Series of several headaches over a few weeks to months
  • Severe pain on one side of the head, often behind one eye
  • Sharp, stabbing pain

Secondary headaches in children

Secondary headaches can be a sign of a more serious condition in a child. Contact your child’s care provider about symptoms such as:

  • Changes in personality or vision
  • Frequent vomiting without nausea or other signs of a stomach virus
  • Headache pain that worsens with strain, such as a cough, or physical activity
  • Headaches in a very young child
  • Seizures, whether or not they occur with epilepsy
  • Sudden, severe headache pain
  • Weakness in the arms or legs, or lack of balance or coordination

Causes of headaches in children

Children can experience headaches for many reasons, such as:

  • Allergies or infections, including colds, flu, ear or sinus infections
  • Dehydration or skipped meals
  • Foods that contain caffeine or certain preservatives
  • Head injuries ranging from minor bumps to hard blows
  • Sensory overload such as strong odors, loud music or other noises, motion during a long boat or car ride, or excessive TV or computer screen time
  • Stress, anxiety or depression
  • Too little sleep

Evaluation and treatment for children with headaches

We may ask you or your child to keep a headache diary to keep track of details. Important information to record includes:

  • How often headaches occur and how long they last
  • Location and severity of the pain
  • Possible triggers
  • Symptoms

Our pediatric neurologists are experienced in caring for children of all ages who have headaches and migraines. Learn more about pediatric neurologic evaluation and treatment at Henry Ford, including medications and relaxation techniques.

Take the next step

Let us help you schedule an appointment, call (800) 436-7936.


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