My child has a headache – first aid guide

What are the symptoms and signs of a headache?

Babies and toddlers may not be able to tell you that they have a headache. Some other symptoms and signs that may accompany a headache are:

  • Irritability
  • Sleepiness
  • Cold symptoms
  • Fever
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Vomiting

What are the causes of a headache?

There are many causes of headaches in babies and children. Some causes are serious, but these tend to be rare. 

  • Fatigue, stress
  • Dehydration
  • Migraine
  • As part of “the common cold” or other viral infections
  • Sinus infection
  • Head injury
  • Meningitis
  • Ear infection
  • Tooth infection or teeth grinding
  • Tumor (rarely)

When can I treat a headache at home?

Mild headaches that are not recurrent and that are short-lived may be treated at home. If your child, however, is ill with other symptoms or has a persistent/chronic headache, you should seek professional medical attention.

When should I seek medical attention?

If your child displays any of the following red flags (warning signs) 

  • Fever
  • Excessive irritability or sleepiness
  • Vomiting
  • Stiff neck
  • A headache following a head injury
  • A headache that lasts more than several hours or that is progressively worsening
  • A history of recurrent headaches
  • A family history of migraine headaches
  • A headache that wakes your child at night
  • A change in vision, difficulty moving arms or legs, loss of balance or confusion
  • If you are concerned for any other reason

First aid measures 

  • Ensure that your child is well hydrated
  • Place cool compresses on the forehead and neck
  • A quiet, darkened room may help
  • Medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help symptoms. Talk to a healthcare professional about the correct dose for your child. Never give a child Aspirin
  • For migraine headaches, discuss avoiding certain triggers such as certain foods with your doctor
  • Stress reduction, emotional support and regular exercise may be helpful for certain types of headaches

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