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

John Furst

JOHN FURST is an experienced emergency medical technician and qualified first aid and CPR instructor. John is passionate about first aid and believes everyone should have the skills and confidence to take action in an emergency situation.

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