Most children’s headaches are non-threatening (benign) and respond well to treatment.
Migraines and tension-type headaches are very common among children and teens. About 1 in every 10 adolescents (ages 12 to 17 years old) has migraine. About 3 in every 10 have tension-type headaches.
Children under the age of 12 years old can also have frequent headaches. In this age group, about 1 in every 13 children has migraine. Tension-type headaches are more frequent. Up to 3 in every 10 school age children have tension-type headaches at least once a month.
Up to 1 in every 25 children starts to have significant headaches before reaching school age. Because of their young age, they may not know how to describe pain.
We use a set of guidelines that help us to diagnose each type of headache based on the symptoms. These guidelines were developed by a group of headache specialists from the International Headache Society. Clinicians around the world use these guidelines to diagnose headaches in children and adults. Different types of headaches have different symptoms. Children and adults can have more than one type of headache. Your child’s provider will ask some questions about symptoms to help decide what type(s) of headache he or she may have.
Younger children often cannot describe their symptoms. Here are some signs that they are having headaches:
Children with other health concerns may be more likely to have headaches. These concerns may include:
We take a complete medical history and examine all patients when we evaluate headaches. It is important to talk about all your child’s health concerns. Other health problems can cause headaches or make them worse. When your child’s practitioner knows all about his or her health, it will help with decisions on medical care. Having headaches does not mean your child has any other health problem. Your doctor or nurse practitioner will decide if other health conditions need attention or more testing.
Most headaches in children are benign. Children’s headaches are very rarely from serious diseases or physical problems. The most common physical causes for acute headaches include:
Examples of serious health problems whose symptoms include severe headaches are:
All of these are rare.