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Headache in Children: Care Instructions


Headaches have many possible causes. Most headaches are not a sign of a more serious problem, and they will get better on their own. Home treatment may help your child feel better soon.

If your child's headaches continue, get worse, or occur along with new symptoms, your child may need more testing and treatment. Watch for changes in your child's pain and other symptoms. These may be signs of a more serious problem.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Have your child rest in a quiet, dark room until the headache is gone. It's best for your child to close their eyes and try to relax or go to sleep. Tell your child not to watch TV or read.
  • Put a cold, moist cloth or cold pack on the painful area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the cold pack and your child's skin.
  • Heat can help relax your child's muscles. Try a warm bath or shower. Or use a warm, moist towel or heating pad set on low to relax tight muscles in your child's shoulders and neck.
  • Gently massage your child's neck and shoulders.
  • Be safe with medicines. Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Be careful not to give your child pain medicine more often than the instructions allow, because this can cause worse or more frequent headaches when the medicine wears off.
  • Do not ignore new symptoms that occur with a headache, such as a fever, weakness or numbness, vision changes, vomiting (especially if it happens in the morning), or confusion. These may be signs of a more serious problem.

How can you help prevent headaches?

To prevent migraines and tension headaches in your child, try these tips.

  • Keep a headache diary.

    This diary can help you find a link between your child's headaches and the things that trigger them. Help your child write down when each headache starts, how long it lasts, where it hurts, and what the pain is like. (Is it throbbing, aching, stabbing, or dull?)

  • Help your child avoid their headache triggers.

    Triggers are things that can cause your child to have headaches. Your child may be able to prevent headaches by avoiding the triggers.

  • Find healthy ways to help your child manage stress.

    Don't let your child's schedule get too busy or filled with stressful events.

  • Make sure that your child drinks plenty of fluids.

    Avoid drinks that have caffeine. Many popular soda drinks contain caffeine.

  • Make sure that your child gets plenty of sleep.

    Help your child keep a regular sleep schedule. Most children need to sleep 8 to 10 hours each night.

  • Encourage your child to get plenty of exercise.

    But your child should exercise without overdoing it.

  • Limit TV, video games, and computer time.
  • Make sure that your child doesn't skip meals.

    Provide regular, healthy meals.

  • Keep your child away from smoke.

    Do not smoke or let anyone else smoke around your child or in your house.

  • If your child is having problems with schoolwork, talk to your child's teachers.

    Make sure that the level and amount of schoolwork is appropriate for your child.

  • If your doctor has prescribed a medicine to prevent headaches, have your child take it as prescribed.

    Your child may need to take it even when they don't have a headache.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child seems very sick or is hard to wake up.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child's headache gets much worse.
  • Your child has new symptoms, such as fever, vomiting, or a stiff neck.
  • Your child has tingling, weakness, or numbness in any part of the body.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.