Headaches in Children
Berkeley Parents Network >
Advice about Health >
Headaches in Children
My 9 year old daughter has been getting consistent headaches for about 4 months -
almost daily for about three weeks. She was recently diagnosed with migraines (they
do run in the family). I have several questions about treatment options; Has anybody
had expereince with a daily medication called Periactin? (We are strongly opposed to
a daily medication at this point but would love information) Can somebody with
experience tells me the pros and cons of a CT Scan? (I do want to rule out that it is
not somethnig more serious). Finally, does anybody have alternative treatment
experiences for children's migraines that have been successful?
Any information would be apprecaited. Thank You.
I have had chronic pain for the last 4 years, and have spent alot of
time seeking solutions. These books include sections on migraines that
you might find helpful:
''Foods That Fight Pain'' by Neal Barnard, MD ''The Chronic Pain
Solution'' by James N. Dillard, MD, DC, CAc
I was suffering from regular headaches, some of which lasted for more
than one day. My chiropractor, Charlie Prins, used kinesiology to
identify foods that were triggering my headaches. I didn't want to go on
a prescription drug, so I decided to avoid those foods and see what
would happen. The headaches stopped entirely.
When I backslid and ate one of the triggering foods, I'd get a headache.
So you might want to explore this option.
Migraines run in our family as well and three of my mother's 10
grandchildren have migraines. Two are more or less grown now and what we
discovered was that there are triggers and if those are avoided, the
headaches can generally be avoided. These are the triggers between all
1. MSG (monosodium glutamate - you'd be surprised at how many foods have
this and it is labeled in many sneaky ways-my nephew gets severe
2. Hot dogs and some sausages
3. Barbequeued food from some places
4. Too many oranges
5. Not enough sleep
Try eliminating some things from her diet and see if it helps.
I've notices that chips have MSG. Many things that list ''spices'',
''natural enzymes'', etc. contain MSG
There is an article somewhere about all the names MSG is listed under.
Maybe someone on this list knows where to find it.
My 9 year old son also suffers from migraines, although it has gotten a
lot better. I came close to giving in to his Pediatrician's pressures of
giving him daily medication (he made me feel like a bad parent because I
did not want to give him anything other than tylenol), although I am not
in favor of this at all. We have been doing a lot of different things
to minimize his headaches. First, we went onto a strict foodplan. I
liked ''Heal your headaches'' by David Buchholz. His claim is that all
headaches are food related. We also started following the feingold diet
(feingold.org) for other reasons but noticed that his also helped
tremendoulsy in reducing his headaches. He still gets them, but not as
much. We make sure he eats enough during the day, drinks plenty of water
and gets enough sleep (10 hours a night). Another thing is that we are
switching schools this year. He has not been happy at is old school for
quite a while, and my gut says that this contributed to his headaches.
My son just spend a very relaxed, non-stressed, month in Europe with his
grandparents, and he has not once gotten a migraine.
You have my sympathies -- I started getting headaches around your daughter's age, too, and developed full-blown migraines by around age 14. After a particuarly dramatic migraine where I experienced partial paralysis (!), I had the gamut of tests - spinal tap, CAT scan, and even an EKG (I think I got that right). All came up clean. The CAT scan was relaxing, as was the EKG. I can't imagine a CAT scan would be too difficult for your daughter. (The spinal tap -- ugh. The needle they used was for an adult rather than a child, with the result that spinal fluid leaked out for about a week and caused excruciating head pain during that time. I imagine if they'd used the right needle it would have been fine. But I digress.)
I wanted to respond to your request for non-drug treatment. I have found that the best way to alleviate my pain without drugs is deep breathing. I learned deep breathing as part of a weekly yoga class (which I only did
once a week, so it wasn't like I was an expert or anything). I did not do
yoga as a child, so can't comment on whether it would work for a pre- teen, but it's worth a try.
When I feel the familiar migraine warnings (for me, its the aura and visual disturbances), I immediately lie down in a dark room, and begin deep breathing. I do this for at least an hour. Afterward I am able to function, in a limited way, with minimal pain. I frequently take a few Advils (any ibuprofen) as well, but the deep breathing is really key.
Someone once told me their father used an actual oxygen machine to take in deep breaths during a migraine. I haven't tried this, but it seems consistent with what I've found about deep breathing. It may be worth a try as well.
My 7 year old had daily headaches and started periactin--at first no
change, then the dose was increased and gradually the headaches seemed
He's now off the periactin and has an occasional headache.The medication
did not seem to bother him in any way. He had an MRI and saw a
pediatric neurologist. The neurologist never really had a great
diagnosis to give us, but I was just so happy there was no brain tumor
or other major problem. I worried that asking about his headaches may
reenforce them. I seem to recall starting with a liquid form of the
periactin but it tasted bad and changing to pills...I hope your
daughter's headaches go away too. Ask the neurologist about CT vs MRI--a
CT is a significant dose of radiation; MRI requires a much longer time
in a scanner laying very still.
What kind of help should I seek for my child who has
frequent headaches? It is not a problem with her vision/we
had her eyes checked.She was diagnosed we sinus infection
last year after having had x-ray done. Is there any
treatment that I should pursue? Has anyone had to deal
with this kind of problem and successfully managed it?What
Your 5 year old could certainly have headaches due to sinus
infections, allergies that affect sinus's or food allergies such
as wheat or dairy (others too).
Often food sensitivities don't show as allergies but can have
equally severe symptoms.
You might try eliminating certain foods for 2 weeks at a time to
see if it changes.
What about mold? Could there be a mold problem in her
environment (home, school?)
Did she jar her neck or head somehow, playing, falling, bonk her
head? A misalignment of the cervical vertebrae in the neck or
really tight muscles could cause headaches.
Chiropractic adjustments or lymphatic or regular massage could
Good luck. There
are lots of possible easy answers to this.
My 7-year-old nephew has been suffering from headaches for over
two months now. They're Kaiser members and have been seeing
numerous doctors, but so far nothing has worked. They checked
the possibility of allergies, eyes, teeth, did CAT-Scan which
showed sinus problems. He took anti-biotics for several weeks,
but that didn't help either. They started seeing an
acupuncturist. No changes after 2 sessions. The headaches are
sometimes a bit less and sometimes more sever, but they never
stop. Needless to say, parents are very worried. Any
information, suggestions or ideas??? Thank you very much.
Many environmental pollutants can cause headaches: formaldehyde
(found in sheets, carpets, curtains and particle board),
ammonia, perfume and carbon monoxide. These are just a few. Here
are some websites to get you started.
Dr. Russell Marz, ND, suggests in his textbook MEDICAL NUTRITION FROM
MARZ that headaches can result from exposures to provocative foods to
one has lost tolerance (often due lack of variety in the diet). These
foods he lists as particularly suspect: coffee, cola, chocolate, nuts,
MSG, foods containing
tyramin, sucrose, simple sugars. Dr. Eric Braverman, MD writes in THE
HEALING NUTRIENTS WITHIN that tyramines are found in aged cheese
cottage cheese & cream cheese), overripe bananas or figs, lunch
meats/processed meat products, dried/smoked/pickled fish, red wines,
chocolate, nuts, dried fruit,
yeast and vanilla extracts, liver, MSG, fresh and dried legumes
including snow peas.
If your child is very active in sports and has had some falls,
collisons and such, a chiropractor and/or osteopath might be able to check out
his head and neck to
relieve any unusual tensions therein.
Our 7-1/2 year old son gets headaches, sometimes every day, sometimes not
for a few weeks; but he has them often. He frequently complains of light
sensitivity at the same time. His doctor at Kaiser isn't concerned about it
and says just to give him Tylenol or Ibuprofen. But we're concerned about
them, what might be causing them, and how to prevent them. His behavior
gets pretty difficult at these times too; he gets pretty grouchy and
miserable but still insists on doing a lot of his normal activities,
because he wants to.
Does anyone have any ideas, suggestions, experience with headaches,
would share with us? (The Parent's net webpage talks just about headaches
accompanied by dizziness, which he does not have). We're especially
interested in a natural approach to preventing them and easing pain. Any
health practicioner recommendation who might have helped with a natural
approach to this would be helpful too. Thanks very much!
please have a complete eye examination with an
optometrist to rule out an eye problem. the child may
need eyeglasses. in case pupil dilation is not done
routinely at kaiser, please request it.
I was an elementary student who suffered daily headaches and went through
several tests which almost included a CT scan to check for tumors. Finally,
someone recommended I go to an orthodontist who also is a TMJ specialist.
This was the cure. He discovered that my posture, tongue placement, and jaw
muscles were out of line and I did several jaw exercises, wore very simple
retainers for a short time and relearned how to stand and align my jaw and
my headaches disappeared like magic. I'm an RN and I know it is difficult
to make a diagnosis without running a lot of tests, etc. but I wanted to
throw out my personal story for you. It may be an avenue you wish to
explore. - Roxanne
Hopefully not the case - but do you have black mold in your house? This
can cause headaches and light sensitivity in kids and adults.
There are so many possibilities for headaches in children, one being food
allergies, though usually there are more symptoms involved. Your son could
have misalignment in his cervical spine which could either be pinching a
nerve or causing his neck muscles to tighten, This would likely cause a
I was raised on Chiropractic care. Being a massage therapist, when I think of
headaches (in anyone) the most obvious place to begin is cervical spine and
I can highly recommend Dr. Bruce Rizzo at Back In Action Chiropractic Center
on MLK in Berkeley. Tel. number is 843-2584. Sande (whose son has been
treated there for headaches), Cassie and Kimiko are the extremeley friendly
and knowledgable office people. Dr. Rizzo has treated both of my boys for
headaches, strained muscles and other childhood injuries and ailments.
Good luck. June
My 9 year old got terrible headaches last year with classic migraine
symptoms. We knew that he had never heard of these symptoms and that
they were genuine. Tylenol and Ibuprofen did not work, even at high
doses. We insisted on a referral to a pediatric neurologist at
Children's (Dr. Shanahan). The medical treatment was extremely
effective. After a few weeks of taking periactin (an antihistamine that
has a positive effect on migraines when given prophylactically, he didn't
get any more headaches. After a few clear months we tapered-off the
periactin. He's been fine ever since. We tried alternatives approaches
without success. Diane
Our 8 year old complains of headaches often, while his twin sister almost
never has headaches. We've figured out that excessive light and noise
contribute to his headaches and found that cutting down on radio music in
the car and lessening sun exposure with baseball caps and sunglasses means
fewer headaches. However, he has headaches after more than 1/2 hour with
his Gameboy and getting him to cut down on that has been more problematic!
We've also found that eating half a banana can make his headache fade.
My 8 year old son complains of headaches when we're out in the car
driving for anything but the usual in-town commuting and errands.
This has been the case for several years, but much more frequently
in the past year. I tend to believe him - the discomfort seems real
enough to me, so I'm trying to find ways to help him (and the rest of
the family) cope with it. He never complains of nausea, but still,
it does seem like a form of motion sickness. I bring along the Tylenol,
which does seem to help once it kicks in, but of course it would be
better if we could deal with this without dishing out the pills on
every drive over 20 minutes. Having him sit in the front seat with
the air vents blowing has seemed to help in the past, but of course,
that option is not as acceptable these days, given the recommendations
concerning air bag safety. I try to see that he has toys to keep him
occupied, but the headaches seem to occur whether he's playing or
whether he's looking out the window. Has anyone else experienced this,
either yourself, or with your children? Any suggestions or info would
be welcomed. We have an appt. with the pediatrician in about a month,
but in the meantime...
When I first moved to the Bay Area years ago from less sunny climates
(England) I frequently got headaches on car trips longer than about a
half hour. The problem was eventually solved by 1) getting myself a
pair of really dark sunglasses, and 2) getting a car with air
conditioning. The air conditioning worked, I think, by allowing me to
recirculate the air (without getting heat stroke) and avoid the traffic
fumes. I really am not sure which solution worked best, or whether it
was a combination of the two. However, I don't get headaches on drives
anymore. I should mention that I have never had a problem with motion
sickness. Good luck, I hope this helps!
I have had the problem since I was a child. when I was a child, my mom
would give me yogurt (with some salt in it) and I guess it helped.
As an adult, I have learned now that drinking enough water prevents it. I
usually have many water bottles accessible to me in the car, and I keep
drinking water in the car wether I am driving, or sitting in the back seat
next to my children. I get no more headaches in the car.
5-year-old with migraines
My 5-yr old daughter has been complaining of sudden headaches. I was very
afraid of the possiblity of a tumor in her brain. Her pediatrician refered
us to a neurologist who thinks she has migrain headaches specially because
there is a history in the family: I have it, my two sisters have it, and
her paternal grandmother has it, too.
what scares me is that the neurologist mentioned that there is no way of
telling that this is not a tumor, uless they do MRI which requires general
anesthesia. And he did not recommend it.
In the handouts that he gave us for migrain, it says that
certain types of food should be avoided and that biofeedback has
specially been successful in children to control their headaches.
I wonder if anybody has a child so young with headache? Have you been
successful in reducing the number of headaches? my daughter gets
them several times a week, sometimes several times a day, but the pain is
not strong. any experience on biofeedback? any experience with MRI?
I don't know how helpful this is, but when I was 11-13 I would get
migraine headaches about once every 2-4 weeks. I would first lose
my peripheral vision (everything looked like it was at the end of a long
white tunnel), then the pain would start and I couldn't tolerate noise or
light, and then I would throw-up and the pain would subside (this would
last over the course of 4 -8 hours). I was treated with some strong
medicine (I can't remember what) that sort of helped, but somehow I
was eventually able to recognize the signs that a headache was immenent
and do something which I can only describe as relaxing the muscles in my
head. This prevented a full blown headache and I have never had a problem
again! I don't know if a 5 year old could be taught to recognize pre-headache
signs, but I do believe that my solution was a biofeedback thing and am all
for that type of approach. The only food I can remember being told to
avoid is chocolate.
Regarding the 5 yr old w/ headaches, just a thought-
Does she get the 'aura'? Migraines are typically (but not
always) preceeded and accompanied by a visual 'aura'
which consists of a growing, shimmering, colored pattern
somewhat like a stained - glass window. It is impossible to
ignore, as it typically obscures a big chunk of your visual
field, usually on one side, opposite to the affected blood
vessels. I got it twice *without* the headache when I was 11
or 12, and was quite bothered by it!
If she *never* 'sees anything funny' before the headaches,
this does *NOT* mean it's not migraine, but if she does, it
would be a strong, tho not 100%, indicator. Hopefully at
5yrs old she can report, remember, describe such an
occurrence, or lack of it. Good Luck!
Before you do the MRI, have you considered getting her eyes checked?
Headaches are a very common sign of a need for prescription glasses. Every
time my prescription changes, I get recurrent headaches.
Also, check to see if your daughter grinds her teeth at night. This can
also cause headaches, and it is easily remedied.
this page was last updated: Nov 29, 2008
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are transitioning to a new website during
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network