By Dr Evelyn Lewin

A headache is pain felt within the head. There are many different causes for headache, but most headaches are not serious. However, if your child has other symptoms, or has recently sustained head injury and is complaining of headache, seek urgent medical help. Some causes of headache in children and teenagers include:

  • Tension headache: These are caused by tension in the muscles of the head and neck. They can be brought on by stress.
  • Migraines: A migraine is a very painful headache that occurs when a vessel inside the brain swells.
  • Infection: Infections such as colds are a common cause of headaches.
  • Meningitis: an infection of the neurological system, can also cause headache.
  • Other causes: These include dehydration, depression, head injury and other infections.


A Headache can take many different forms.  Migraine Symptoms may include:
  1. Throbbing pain on one side of the head
  2.  Nausea and/or vomiting
  3. Sensitivity to sound or light
  4.  An ‘aura’ such as flashing lights may come before the headache
Tension headaches    Symptoms may include:
  1. A dull, aching headache usually felt on both sides of the head (like you are wearing a helmet that is squeezing you)
  2.  Other symptoms are unlikely
Headache following head injury Symptoms may include:
  1.  Drowsiness
  2.  Confusion/change in conscious state
  3. Nausea and/or vomiting
Headache of meningitis Symptoms may include:
  1. Headache
  2. Sensitivity to light and/or sound
  3. Rash
  4. Nausea and/or vomiting
  5. Neck stiffness
  6.  Fever


Tension Headaches: Aim to minimise stress. Simple painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, can help. Migraines: Migraines are often triggered by certain foods, such as chocolate. Try to identify the cause and avoid it. If your child experiences regular migraines, speak to your doctor about preventative medications. Headache from Head injury: See a doctor immediately.

When to seek help: Seek urgent medical care if your child complains about a headache that is worrying either in its:

– Severity (it is a very bad headache)
– Duration (it is going on for longer than you think it should)
– Timing (the headache comes on at the same time every day, keeps coming back or wakes your child from sleep)
– Onset (it came on very fast) – If it is accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever, drowsiness or seizures

Alternatively, if you are concerned at all, see your doctor.

Reviewed by Dr Evelyn Lewin 25 February 2015 references
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This document has been developed and peer reviewed by a KIDS HEALTH Advisory Board Representative and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner.

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