If your child is complaining of a headache, do not be alarmed: headache in children and adolescents is quite common and is usually not serious. The two main types are migraine — which can affect about 9% of young children and 23% of adolescents — and tension-type headache, which is very common in young people, especially in early adolescence.
Migraine is usually characterized by a throbbing, more throbbing pain, usually on both sides of the head, associated with nausea and vomiting, in addition to an aversion to light and noise. It may or may not be accompanied by abdominal pain and visual changes, known as an aura. Tension headache, however, occurs when there is a tension in the muscles, is slightly lighter and can occur on both sides of the head, without symptoms of nausea and vomiting.
Pains are divided into two groups: primary pain, which does not have a specific cause, and secondary pain, which has a triggering factor that can be an acute infection, a brain injury, hydrocephalus, a vascular problem or even a tumor. . But, according to neuropediatrician Rejane Macedo, from Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, brain tumors as a cause of headaches in children and adolescents are uncommon.
According to the neuropediatrician, there are some triggers and environmental factors that are usually associated with the onset of headache in children and adolescents, that is why it is so important to carefully evaluate the patient’s history (if he has a history of pain and it has worsened or if it is a pain that just started), the pattern of pain, how often the child complains, and whether there is a predisposition because of a family history. The main triggers are environmental changes, emotional factors, poor sleep quality, hormonal changes (common in puberty adolescents) and food (with abuse of artificial dyes, sausages, some types of cheese, caffeine, among others).
“It is very common for parents to arrive at the neurologist’s office in despair, always thinking that their child’s headache is something more serious because they have already been to the ophthalmologist and otolaryngologist and have not found anything. But, most of the time, the problem is primary [sem causa específica] and we managed to solve it with small changes in habits. We demystify this issue. Children can, yes, have a headache, just like adults, “he explains.
Warning signs for parents to seek medical help are:
- Observe if the pain is acute;
- Check if it is a pain that has been getting worse over time;
- Assess whether there has been a change in the pattern of pain type and frequency of complaints.
According to Rejane, if the child has at least two episodes of pain per month, it is necessary to investigate. In general, when the cause is associated with sleep problems, stress or eating problems, it can be controlled only with changes in habits, without the use of medication.
“The first guideline is to remove the possible triggers and change the lifestyle to avoid crises. The use of medication is recommended for few cases. Usually the treatment lasts from three to six months”, says the doctor who emphasizes that the imaging such as CT and MRI are only ordered when the cause of pain is secondary. The use of painkillers should also be done in moderation, as the exaggerated consumption of medications can cause a rebound effect and trigger chronic pain.