At Oregon Neurology in Springfield, pediatric neurologist Dr. Jeffrey Frank specializes in treating kids with a variety of conditions, including intense or persistent headaches.

“Interestingly, we are seeing more headaches year after year in kids and the exact source for that is not clear.”

Headache triggers
Headache is one of the most common reasons kids miss school and activities. Most headaches are not caused by neurological disease but instead are triggered by other factors such as genetics and lifestyle, including stress and not drinking enough water.

“We are seeing an increase in musculoskeletal sources where headaches are brought on by alignment issues and posture. That can happen when you are hunched over a phone, device or a computer,” Dr. Frank says. “Lack of sleep is also a cause. If you’re getting less than 8 hours of sleep as an adolescent each night, there’s a good chance that will contribute to headaches. We’re also seeing rising rates of anxiety and mood dysfunction and those are highly associated with headache as well.”

While headaches can be painful and disruptive, Dr. Frank says they are most concerning when they:

  • Wake your child from sleep
  • Worsen or become more frequent
  • Cause a change in your child’s personality or level of consciousness
  • Occur following an injury, such as a blow to the head
  • Are accompanied by fever and neck pain or stiffness
  • Involve changes in speech, balance or difficulty using your limbs

“Anytime neurological function is impaired and there’s headache with it, it warrants a closer look.”

Treating headaches
Treating intense or persistent headaches can be challenging in children who require more than lifestyle changes or over the counter medications, because most FDA-approved drugs to prevent headaches are not recommended for kids under age 12. However, Dr. Frank says If your child is experiencing headaches, they don’t have to suffer; there are treatment options available.

“If headaches are getting in the way of life, if you’re missing school, missing activities, not doing things because of headache or fear of having a headache, it’s clear that more needs to be done to address that.”

Start by making an appointment with your pediatrician. They can help pinpoint the causes of your child’s headaches, determine a course of treatment and refer your child to a specialist if needed.