How to know if your toddler has a headache

Have you ever heard a toddler complain of headache? Chances are, you might not. So, how do you find out if your child does have a headache? What are the signs you must look out for?

By Ashwin Dewan

How to know if your toddler has a headache

A toddler may not always be able to express he has a headache. If your toddler is uncomfortable or refuses to do the things he is usually interested in, and you suspect he may have a headache, what do you do? This article discusses the signs you must look out for, types of headaches and ways to treat them.

A headache in a relatively young age should not be dismissed lightly. In case you are unable to identify the exact cause, it is advisable to see a child specialist. How do you find out if your little one has a headache?

Look out for these signs:

  • He is constantly grimacing
  • He is squinting his eyes
  • Holds his head constantly
  • Avoids bright lights
  • Remains in a miserable mood

Why does your toddler have a headache?

According to MayoClinic, several factors can lead to a headache:

1) Stress and anxiety, which are both emotional factors.

2) Head injuries like a bump or a bruise.

Note: Contact a doctor or seek immediate medical attention if your toddler falls hard on his head.

3) Illnesses like cold, flu and ear infections. Serious infections like meningitis can also cause a headache in children.

4) Foods that are high in preservatives or monosodium glutamate (MSG) can also cause a headache.

5) Sometimes, recurring headaches in a toddler can also point out to something serious, such as a tumour.

Types of headache in toddlers

Migraine

Dr Krishan Chugh, Director & HOD, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon says “the exact cause of migraine is not yet known. Some people say it is genetic but there is no concrete evidence to prove this.” Dr. Chugh further adds that the number of young children with migraine is on the rise.

“Children admitted feeling unusual sensations in their body, a feeling of chill, and seeing visions which are not real before they came down with migraine, says Dr. Chugh”.

The Huffington Post says you can look out for changes in your child’s behaviour before migraine. He may become excessively drowsy, unusually inactive, irritable and may have mood swings. Migraine is also characterised by nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light.

Tension-related headache

Toddlers can also have headaches that may be caused by tension. This can manifest in the form of a stomachache, which gradually leads to toddler headaches. This headache is often caused by stress or poor sleep habits. 

Cluster headache

When your toddler suffers from headaches that occur over a period, or even continuously for days, it means he has cluster a headache, says TheHealthSite. Again, there is no clear cause for cluster headache. 

Unlike migraine, which can occur at any time, a cluster headache comes in many batches over a day or even a week.

Chronic headache

It can occur several times in a single week. If your toddler starts experiencing frequent headaches, it is a case of a chronic headache and medical assistance should be sought immediately.

Meningitis

In scientific terms, meningitis is an inflammation of the membrane that covers the brain and the spinal cord, according to Hadassah Medical Center. This illness can be caused by many organisms, including viruses and bacteria. It was a quite widespread in young children around 15-10 years ago. Advancements in the field of medicine and vaccines have combined to lower the cases of meningitis in children considerably, says Dr Krishan Chugh.

In toddlers, the first symptoms of meningitis are usually fever, vomiting and headache.

Tips to relieve your toddler of a headache

If your toddler is generally healthy and only has an occasional headache, you need not worry. Try these simple tips at home to bring relief.

  • Play soothing music. Listening to music might help soothe a headache, especially that caused by stress and migraine.
  • Medicines might help but Dr Chugh advises that you should consult the doctor before administering medicines to your toddler.
  • Make your toddler sit on your lap and comfort him, Or, gently lull him to sleep.

With inputs from Dr Krishan Chugh, Director & HOD, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon.

For more information on headaches in children, watch the following video.