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Dealing with Headaches in Children

It may be hard to believe, but instances of headaches are quite common in children and these instances increase as the child gets older. While statistics shows the number of children who experience occasional headache to be quite high, it’s usually nothing to be worried about. Most of the time, these headaches are symptoms of the common cold or the flu; however, if the headaches are quite severe and chronic, there may be some other serious underlying illness that’s causing it.

How to Treat Headaches in Children

Treating a child’s headache is not too different with treating that of an adult; however, certain medications like aspirin should not be given to children under the age of 16 as it makes them more susceptible to a rare condition called Reye Syndrome. Here are a few things you can do for your child if he or she has a headache.

  • Go for specially formulated pain medication. Most over-the-counter pain medication has a milder version specially formulated for kids. It’s usually in syrup form as children may not be able to swallow capsules or large tablets. Check with your child’s pediatrician for the right dosage as it’s usually calculated by weight instead of age.
  • Let the child rest. Most adults can function normally even with a headache. Unfortunately, children are not equipped to manage pain the same way adults are. They should lie down and have a hot or cold compress applied to their heads to help with pain relief.
  • Feed them. Children who aren’t feeling well tend to lose their appetite. While giving them a snack won’t get rid of the headache, it will keep it from worsening.
  • Ask them about what they ate or what they did before they got a headache. Keeping a headache diary is very effective in detecting headache triggers and avoiding them, but with kids, you may have to take down notes for them. Ask them about the food they ate or the activities they were performing before the headache happened. This will give you a clearer idea of what’s causing it.
  • Talk to your child. Some children get headaches when they are nervous about taking a test or performing in front of the class. Some parents dismiss this as psychological, but if it is physically hurting them, then something must be done about it. By talking to your kids and giving them advice and encouragement, the anxiety of doing some things they’re not used to doing may subside and the headaches may disappear, too.
  • Give your child a light massage. If a child is suffering from a tension headache, massaging his neck and shoulder muscles lightly can help relieve the tension and ease the pain he feels.

Experiencing headaches is bad enough when adults have them, so it’s hard to imagine how a kid must feel when his or her head hurts. Treating the pain is just the first part. If there are other, more bothersome symptoms present alongside the headache, take your child to a pediatrician immediately.

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Reye syndrome is sudden (acute) brain damage (encephalopathy) and liver function problems of unknown cause. The syndrome has occurred with the use of aspirin to treat chickenpox or the flu in children. However, it has become very uncommon since aspirin is no longer recommended for routine use in children. Reye syndrome is most often seen in children ages 4 - 12. Most cases that occur with chickenpox are in children ages 5 - 9. Cases that occur with the flu (influenzae type B) are usually in children ages 10 - 14. Children with Reye syndrome get sick very suddenly. Reye syndrome usually follows an upper respiratory infection (URI) or chickenpox by about 1 week.