My daughter has been getting bad headaches ever since she started middle school last year. She gets about two or three a month. Should I be worried?
Preteens and teens often suffer from headaches. There are many potential causes of headaches, and it is often difficult to determine why they occur. Here’s what to do and when to worry:
1. Take your child to the pediatrician. A physical exam can eliminate somewhat obvious issues, such as hypertension or visual problems.
2. Have your child keep a “headache diary.” It may help to document when headaches occur, how long they last, what makes them milder and what circumstances surround their onset. If a triggering event such as diet, stress or anxiety consistently occurs before a headache, treatment and prevention become much easier. If nothing is evident in the diary, medical tests may be necessary.
3. Get medical attention. A series of symptoms require medical attention, including:
- Worst-headache-of-my-life symptoms
- Headaches occurring with exertion
- Headaches associated with nausea or vomiting
- A stiff neck
- Recent head trauma before the onset of the headache
- Blurred vision, slurred speech or serious behavioral changes
- Increasing frequency
- Headaches that impair daily functioning
Dr. Mark Diamond is a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.