If your child has a headache, there a different treatments available.
There are 3 types of medicines to treat headaches in children. These are used in the moment they have a headache. These medicines are called rescue medicines. Rescue medicines don’t prevent headaches but can relieve them. They include:
Pain relievers (analgesics) work well for migraines and tension headaches, especially when they are taken 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 if they need to use them regularly. Pain relievers can cause headaches (analgesic rebound headaches) if they are taken regularly for weeks or months.
There are 2 main types of pain relievers to treat headaches in children – non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and anti-fever drugs (anti-emetics).
The following are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs):
Acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, is a type anti-fever drug that is often used to treat headaches. It usually doesn’t cause any 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 prevent nausea and vomiting. 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 to treat 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 they shouldn’t be taken regularly to treat headaches or to prevent headaches.
Almotriptan (Axert) is the only antimigraine medicine approved in Canada to treat migraines in children between ages 12 and 17. Side effects include nausea, feeling weak, dizzy, tired, and having chest tightness.
The following antimigraine medicines are considered safe, but are not officially approved for children because they haven’t been studied with this age group.
Your child shouldn’t take triptan medications if they:
Talk to your healthcare provider about whether triptans are right for your child.
There is some evidence that complementary medicine may help to treat headaches in children. Medicines and complimentary medicine can be used together to help manage headaches. Research into complementary medicine and headaches is just starting. Researchers are studying the following to help control headaches in children:
Find out more about
Talk to a nurse, social worker, psychologist, or your child’s doctor about other ways to treat headaches in children. They can help you and your child:
Current as of: August 28, 2018
Author: Paediatric Neurology, Alberta Health Services
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