Yes, a 10-year-old kid can get a headache the same way an adult can get a headache. Just like adults, the most common type of headache for a child are tension headaches, also known as stress headaches. There are a number of different causes for these headaches, and often they are the same amongst adults and children. However, roughly 5% of children struggle with migraine headaches.
There are a few different things you can do for your child’s headache. Some of those options are the same things you do for your own headaches. However, make sure to keep an eye on the other symptoms.
What Are Tension Headaches?
Tension headaches are the most common headaches amongst children and adults. They are also known as stress headaches and can happen at any point.
While they do cause discomfort, tension headaches do not affect your vision, strength, or balance. Because of this, most people are able to continue with their everyday activities with only some minor discomfort.
There are two kinds of tension headaches:
- Episodic Tension Headaches
- Chronic Tension Headaches
Episodic tension headaches happen 15 or fewer times a month. These can last anywhere from 30 minutes to a few days. They also often start around the middle of the day and gradually get worse or better.
Chronic tension headaches happen more than 15 times a month and will last much longer. They might become a bit better and then get worse in a cycle, but the headache will be there constantly.
Symptoms of Tension Headaches
There are many symptoms of a tension headache and they are universal. No matter the age, we can all sympathize with one another about these headaches.
Pain and pressure caused by tension headaches are usually mild to moderate. It can be felt in the top, sides, or front of the head. These headaches usually will start in the back of the head and move forward as the headache worsens.
They also have the potential to become a constant, dull pain all around your head; almost as if there is a hard squeezing around your entire head. They can even make your jaw and the muscles in your neck and shoulders feel sore too.
Often, these headaches start later in the day rather than in the morning or early afternoon. Other symptoms can include:
- Light sensitivity
- Noise sensitivity
- Muscle aches
- Trouble focusing
If any of these symptoms become severe, contact your doctor. It might be more than a tension headache–migraines are also a possibility.
What Are Migraine Headaches?
Migraines are worse than tension headaches. Women are more prone to migraines, though men can and do experience them. The pain caused by migraine headaches can cause a person to be unable to do daily activities. They can last from four hours to three days.
Typically, migraines are on one side of the head more than the other. They will often be felt in the forehead, the temples, and behind the eyes. These types of headaches can make you severely sensitive to light and sound to the point where it hinders daily activities.
Some people who suffer from migraines will experience nausea and vomiting and even vision problems. This can impact a person’s ability to go to work.
Roughly 20% of people who suffer from migraines will see an ‘aura’ about 20 minutes to an hour before the pain starts. They could see flashing lights, waves or dots in their vision, and even blurry or blind spots.
What Can Cause a Migraine?
There are many things that can cause a migraine, but why they happen is still not 100% known. Experts believe it is neurological and that nerves of the brain, brain chemicals and blood vessels in the brain are all involved.
Certain things can trigger a migraine. These triggers include:
- Flashing lights
- Stress and anxiety
- Lack of sleep
- Hormonal changes (primarily in women)
- Lack of caffeine (if consumed daily)
What Causes Headaches in Children?
Most often, kids get headaches due to an illness, a fever, or an infection of some sort. These headaches are typically tension headaches of some sort. Ear infections can cause headaches. Sinus infections can also cause headaches in the sinus area (behind the eyes and around the temples).
Tension headaches in kids are also caused by eye strain due to poor vision that has gone unchecked. Poor posture can also be a cause of tension headaches. Emotional stress as also been linked to tension headaches in children.
Roughly five percent of children will suffer from migraine headaches. Doctors are unsure as to why children get migraines. However, they suspect that they are connected to chemical and physical changes within the brain. Genes from parents are also suspected to play a role in migraines in children.
About 70% of children who get migraines have a relative–either the mom, dad, or a sibling–that also have frequent migraines or a history of them. Family members might have similar triggers for migraines too.
For children, stress, anxiety, and depression might cause a migraine. Lack of sleep or too much sleep can also be a trigger–also a change in sleep patterns. Too much sun can also bring on a migraine.
In young girls, as puberty hits, changes in hormone levels might cause a migraine. This is especially common once the girl starts her menstrual cycle. This type of migraine is called menstrual migraine.
What to Do When Symptoms Get Severe
Most headaches are harmless and only cause discomfort for a short amount of time. However, if symptoms are getting more and more severe or lasting for several days, it might be a good time to consult your child’s pediatrician.
Severe symptoms are when the usual symptoms of either a tension headache or a migraine headache get worse. This is usually when it’s to the point where your child is in almost unbearable pain. Other severe symptoms include:
- Vision loss
- Extreme muscle fatigue
- Any problem or symptom that causes a lack of sleep
- Any headache located in the back of the head
If any of these symptoms occur, especially the headache in the back of the head, take your child to the doctor. There, the doctor will ask questions about the headaches such as how bad they are, how often they happen, and where the pain is.
Usually, a diagnosis can be made based on this information. However, sometimes more information is needed and a CT scan or MRI is issued to look at the brain. This images can help show where the major problem areas are and can help figure out why the headaches are happening.
Once the cause of the headaches is determined, your child’s doctor will work with you to figure out the best way to help your child.
What to Do For Non-Severe Headaches
For the headaches that are not severe enough to take your child to the doctor, there are plenty of ways to treat them at home. Even for some severe headaches, you can try to use a home remedy before going to the doctor.
Treating tension headaches and migraine headaches is a little different. For tension headaches, having your child lay with his or her head elevated some might help relieve pressure. Taking a hot bath or shower can help too. The steam can help to relieve inner pressure. Cold or warm compresses can feel good pressed to the neck and forehead.
For migraines, it’s best to have your child lay in his or her room in the dark. Draw the curtains so no light can come in. Make sure to keep noise to a minimum as migraines are often worsened by noise. Warm or cold compresses might also help.
At 10 years old, a single dose of either Tylenol (acetometaphin) or Advil (ibuprofen) can help ease the pain of either tension headaches and migraine headaches. It’s best to give the medicine as soon as the child complains about a headache. However, do not give medicine too often as it can cause rebound headaches.
However, is over the counter medicines are not your first choice, you can try other natural remedies. Some natural remedies are:
- Vitamin B2, or Riboflavin. This can help ease some headaches and help to prevent them.
- Coenzyme Q10. This is an antioxidant found in every cell. A third of all children are deficient in this.
- Essential Oils. Certain essential oils, such as lavender, mint, chamomile, and frankincense can offer a natural headache relief.
Before using natural remedies, make sure to ask your child’s doctor if they are safe for your child and for guidance on dosage.
Other Things You Can Do for Your Child’s Headaches
If your child suffers from chronic headaches, there are a few things you can do. One of the best things you can do is track the symptoms, especially if the headaches are frequent.
Create a “headache diary” where you or your child can write down the symptoms that have to lead up to the headache, what could have caused them, and how long the last. Include where the headache hurts the most and what you did to treat them.
Also, record how your child responds to headaches. Does he or she have a loss of appetite, are they irritable or over-fatigued. Knowing these symptoms is important to know what other measures can be taken to help prevent the headache. It is also good to note other physical reactions such as:
- Heart rate
- Breathing patterns
Sit and talk with your child about what could stress them out to the point of these headaches. Once you know, help your child learn ways to manage the stress. Stress is a huge trigger for headaches. Teaching your child how to manage stress and tips to not get as stressed will help immensely.
Giving your child a light massage can help too. Focus on the neck and shoulders, as this is where headache causing muscle tension is. Look up pressure points that can help with relieving headaches.
If you had to get your child medical help for headaches, record how he or she responds to treatment as soon as the treatment starts. Recording every symptom and how the child reacts can help the doctor better help your child.
Include heart rate, pulse, breathing patterns, temperature, where the most painful part of the headache is and the least painful part. When recording, writing how the child sleeps and eats. Anything that has affected your child due to headaches, either tension or migraine, should be recorded.
Often, headaches around the age of 10 are caused by puberty and the changing of hormones. If your child is in a stressful situation whether at school or at home, that can also have an impact. The good news is most children outgrow their headaches and will go on to live life with only the rare headache.
If as your 10-year-old gets older, he or she continues to suffer from headaches, return to the doctor and talk to them. They will be able to help your child figure out what could be causing them and provide medication to help.