Does your Child Suffer from Headaches? Here’s how to monitor them the next time it happens.
Children and Headaches
By Tanya Lee, N.D.
Headaches are a nuisance many people have experienced to varying degrees at one point of their lives. Headaches in children are very common and usually not serious. However, it is important to monitor the intensity and frequency your child experiences the headaches in order to rule out more serious conditions and also to pinpoint the exact cause of the headache and give your child the relief they deserve.
- Tension Headaches: These headaches are very common but difficult to pinpoint the cause, which is commonly related to school stress. Normal patterns of these headaches tend to worsen in the afternoon and are better on the weekends (when there’s no school!). Children who are prone to these tension headaches generally have poor posture, tight shoulder and neck muscles, and are better with heat and massage. Sometimes finding the actual source of stress may be difficult as it may be the result of bullying, trouble with schoolwork/teachers, or stressors at home, which the child may choose to keep to themselves. Try examining your child’s mood after coming home from school or after school activities to ensure healthy relationships with peers or instructors, or the work load is not too stressing.
- Migraines: These types of headaches usually occur as severely painful and debilitating headaches, often preceded by blurred vision (especially around lights), floaters or flashing lights. Many children tend to vomit or feel nauseous before and during a migraine episode. Other symptoms include pain worse with movement, noise, lights and with food. The causes of migraines are numerous but can stem from nutrient deficiencies, food sensitivities (of course!), dehydration, increased sugar consumption and stress.
- Food Sensitivity headaches: Food sensitivities are delayed hypersensitivity reactions of the immune system to a particular food. These headaches can occur up to 2 days AFTER consumption of the particular food(s). As a result, many people usually disregard food sensitivities as a cause of headaches, when in turn is the most common cause of headaches. These headaches can manifest as daily chronic headaches with no apparent pattern, headaches experienced once in a while, or outright migraines.
First of all, try to determine whether the headache is a tension headache – look for the signs and symptoms outlined above. Once you figure out that the headaches are not related to stress we need to look at a few other factors
1. Check if your child is consuming enough water – dehydration is often a part of the cause of headaches and migraines. Ensure your child is consuming enough water (1/2 body weight [lbs] in fluid ounces) during the day in order to keep the blood nice and fluid and the cells hydrated. Juices and milk are NOT a proper substitutes for water.
2. Make sure your child is getting enough vitamins and minerals – A number of studies show headaches have been associated with B vitamin deficiencies, magnesium deficiency and with poor diet. Make sure your child is getting enough vegetables and fruit with each meal throughout the day. Opt for healthy snacks like fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes instead of the heavily processed, high fat/sugar snacks.
3. Ensure your child is getting enough essential fatty acids – A number of studies have found that deficiency of omega-3s in the diet is associated with increased frequency and intensity of headaches in children. Try to incorporate olive oil, flax oil and lots of *nuts in the diet (no peanuts or pistachios!). * Provided the child does NOThave a nut allergy!
4. Ensure your child is getting enough sleep – Low levels of melatonin, the sleep hormone, has also been associated with increased frequency and intensity of headaches. Children who experience problems with sleeping may be dealing with other problems such as anxiety, hyperactivity, high-sugar diet and depression and should be assessed with a credible physician, conventional or naturopathic.
5. Ensure your child is free of food allergies – As mentioned earlier, food allergies play a major role in any type of headaches. Many naturopathic doctors offer food sensitivity testing in their offices. By finding out which foods your child is reacting to and then eliminating them from the diet for a set amount of time should show MAJORimprovements in frequency and intensity of headaches.
6. If your child experiences any of these signs or symptoms, please bring them to your trusted physician as they may be indicators of more serious conditions:
- Abrupt, severe headache (feels like a Thunderclap)
- Present with fever, stiff neck, numbness, tingling, visual disturbances, confusion, trouble speaking
- Associated with seizures
- Progressive headaches, associated with cough, or exertion
- Progressive headaches after a head injury
Seeing an experienced physician (naturopathic or conventional) can help many parents pinpoint the cause of headaches and to offer guidance on how to manage and treat this condition.
Dr. Tanya Lee is a naturopathic doctor currently practicing in Toronto and Milton Ontario. Tanya was drawn to the naturopathic profession for its core beliefs in treating the whole person. Dr. Lee practice general medicine, with a special interest in children’s health, women’s health and pregnancy. For more information on Dr. Lee and her practice, please visit, www.tanyaleend.com .
Tanya Lee, BSc (Hons), N.D.
800 Bathurst St. Suite 201
Toronto, ON M5R 3M8
Health Centre of Milton
400 Main S. E Suite 210
Milton, ON L9T 1P7