Springdale Mason Pediatrics

Headache - Symptom


  • Pain or discomfort of the head
  • This includes the forehead to the back of the head

Call or Return If

  • Headache becomes severe
  • Vomiting occurs
  • Headache lasts more than 3 days
  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Your child becomes worse

About This Topic


  • Viral illnesses. Most headaches are part of a viral illness, especially with colds. Most often, these last a few days.
  • Muscle tension headaches. Most common type of frequent headaches. Muscle tension headaches give a feeling of tightness around the head. The neck muscles may become sore and tight. Tension headaches can be caused by staying in one position for a long time. This can happen when reading or using a computer. Some children get tension headaches as a reaction to stress or worry. Examples of stress in children are pressure for better grades or family arguments.
  • Migraine headaches. Severe, very painful headaches that keep your child from doing normal activities. They are throbbing and often occur on one side. Vomiting or nausea is present in 80%. Lights and sound make them worse. Most children want to lie down in a dark, quiet room. Will recur.
  • Head injury. Pain and tenderness at the site of an injury can last 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Other common causes. Hunger, hard work or sports, sunlight, coughing.
  • Frontal sinusitis. Can cause a headache on the forehead just above the eyebrow. Rare before 10 years old because frontal sinus not formed yet. Other sinuses cause face pain, not headache.
  • Serious causes. Meningitis or encephalitis. Symptoms include a headache, stiff neck, vomiting, fever and confusion.

Pain Scale

  • Mild: Your child feels pain and tells you about it. But, the pain does not keep your child from any normal activities. School, play and sleep are not changed.
  • Moderate: The pain keeps your child from doing some normal activities. It may wake him or her up from sleep.
  • Severe: The pain is very bad. It keeps your child from doing all normal activities.


After Care Advice

  • Headaches are very common with some viral illnesses.
  • Headaches also occur after hard exercise, too much sun or fasting too long.
  • Unexplained headaches can occur in children, just as they do in adults.
  • Here is some care advice that should help.
Pain Medicine:
  • To help with the pain, give acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen. Use as needed.
  • Headaches due to fever are also helped by drinking more water.
  • Give fruit juice or food if your child is hungry.
  • If your child hasn't eaten in more than 4 hours, offer some food.
  • Reason: Skipping a meal can cause a headache in many children.
  • Lie down in a quiet place and relax until feeling better.
  • Also get enough sleep at night.
Cold Pack:
  • Use a cold pack or a cold wet washcloth. Put it on the area that hurts the most.
  • Do this for 20 minutes.
  • Stretch and massage any tight neck muscles.
What to Expect:
  • Headaches from exercise or too much sun usually go away in a few hours.
  • Headaches with viral infections often go away in 2 to 3 days.
  • Headaches without a cause usually last less than a day.

Author: Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP
Copyright 2000-2021 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC
Disclaimer: This health information is for educational purposes only. You the reader assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.
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