There are different medicines for treating headaches in children.
There are 3 types of medicines to treat headaches in children, called rescue medicines. Rescue medicines don’t stop your child from getting headache, but they can make your child feel better. They include:
Pain relievers (analgesics) work well for migraines and tension-type headaches. Your child needs to take them as soon as a headache starts (within 5 to 20 minutes).
Don’t give your child pain relievers more than 2 or 3 times a week. Pain relievers can cause headaches if you take them regularly for weeks or months.
The 2 main types of pain relievers for headaches in children are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and anti-fever medicines (anti-emetics).
NSAIDs for headaches include:
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is an anti-fever medicine often used to treat headaches. It usually doesn’t cause side effects.
Talk to your child’s healthcare provider if you have questions about pain relievers for headaches.
Some children may have nausea or vomiting along with a headache. Anti-nausea medicines (anti-emetics) help stop nausea and vomiting from happening. They also help headache pain medicines work better. The following anti-nausea medicines are sometimes used with pain relievers to treat headaches:
Antimigraine medicines (triptans) are sometimes used for migraines when pain relievers don’t work. They change chemicals in the brain that can cause headaches and pain. It’s important for your child to take an antimigraine medicine as soon as the migraine starts. But your child shouldn’t take them regularly.
Almotriptan (Axert) is the only antimigraine medicine approved in Canada for migraines in children between 12 and 17 years old. Side effects include nausea, feeling weak, dizzy, tired, and tight in the chest.
The following antimigraine medicines are considered safe, but they’re not officially approved for children because they haven’t been studied with this age group:
Your child shouldn’t take antimigraine medicines if they:
Talk to your healthcare provider about whether these medicines are right for your child.
Complementary medicine (healthcare some people use along with standard medical treatments and medicines) may help to treat and manage headaches in children.
Research is starting to look at how the following types of complementary medicine might help with children’s headaches:
Talk to a nurse, social worker, psychologist, or doctor about other ways to treat your child's headaches. They can help you and your child:
Current as of: October 25, 2021
Author: Pediatric Neurology, Alberta Health Services
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