January 9, 2018

Migraine Headaches in Children and Teens – Advice and Recommendations

By Joanne Prinzhorn, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Mission Children’s Hospital

The complaint of a headache is the most common neurologic symptom encountered in a pediatric practice. Therefore, it is important for parents to understand basic steps to help with this problem.

At the onset of a headache:

  • Give your child prescription headache medication if prescribed or give over-the-counter medication at the onset of the head pain
  • Encourage your child to increase their fluid intake, including water, sports drink or any beverage without caffeine or aspartame
  • When home, have your child rest in a cool, dark, quiet room, encouraging your child to relax, closing his or her eyes, with hopes of falling asleep
  • Eliminate television, cellphone, video games and music during this time
  • Apply a cool compress to their forehead
  • Massaging your child’s neck and shoulders adds to their relaxation
  • When awake, encourage foods or snacks with protein to include meat, cheese, nuts or eggs

To prevent headaches from occurring:

  • Increase your child’s fluid intake every day, avoiding beverages with caffeine and aspartame
  • Make sure your child does not skip a meal and ensure they eat protein with every meal to include meat, cheese, nuts or eggs
  • Find healthy ways to manage stress that includes daily exercise and relaxation techniques
  • Maintain a regular bedtime routine to include bedtime being at the same time each night, eliminating electronics one hour before bedtime, shower or bathe at night, sleep 8-10 hours per night
  • Keep your child away from smoke, including second-hand smoke
  • Keep a headache diary with day and time of headache, location and type of pain and any foods (chocolate, cheese) or events (stress, lack of sleep) that may have triggered the headache

Seek medical treatment:

  • If your child’s headache continues to get worse
  • If your child develops new symptoms such as fever, persistent vomiting or stiff neck
  • If your child develops numbness, tingling or weakness in any part of the body
  • If your child does not get better as expected

Joanne Prinzhorn, CPNP, is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner working in Pediatric Neurology with Mission Children’s Hospital.

To learn more about the services at Mission Children’s Hospital, visit missionchildrens.org.

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