When you think about someone experiencing a headache, you probably think of an adult. But many kids complain of headaches, too, and for some of the very same reasons as adults. As children and teens prepare to return to school, it’s important to acknowledge the impact chronic headache and migraine can have on their education and social lives.
Among school age children ages 5 to 17 in the United States, 20 percent are prone to headache. Success in managing the headaches depends not only on a correct diagnosis and effective treatment, but also on understanding responses from parents, educators, and school health care professionals.
The more that parents, school health care professionals, and teachers know about children and headaches, the easier it will be to identify them and help children manage them for a full and rewarding life.
When children experience chronic headaches, it affects them at home and in school. Their success in life depends not only on a correct diagnosis and effective treatment, but also on understanding responses from parents and educators. Here are some tips for helping young people with headaches.
Headache at home: Be responsive and sensitive without pampering. Treat this child the same as you treat your other children.
Discourage school refusal: There will be times when a headache will cause a child to miss school, but your child shouldn’t miss more than five days per semester as a result of headache. If he or she misses more than five days, further evaluation may be needed.
Communicate with educators: It is important for parents of younger children, and for adolescents themselves, to discuss headaches with educators. Your child’s doctor can write a letter explaining the importance of treatment. Give the medications and instructions for use to the school nurse.
Discuss immediate treatment: Explain to each teacher that the moment a child feels the warning signs of a headache, he or she should be allowed to leave class, go to the nurse for medication, and rest until symptoms have decreased.
Legitimate biological disease: A child or adolescent’s chronic headaches or migraines are real responses and not excuses.
Missing school: When a child gets a headache during school, encourage him or her to lie down in the nurse’s office during a headache, or until symptoms diminish to a more manageable level. Be sure he or she returns to class afterward.
Communicate with student: Offer a sensitive reaction that does not embarrass the child in front of his or her classmates. When a child knows the school environment is supportive then headaches should not be used as a reason for missing school, or for more than a minimal amount of time.
Allow immediate treatment: If, during a class, a child explains that he or she has to take medication, encourage the student to go to the nurse’s office. Taking medication as soon as the first signs of a headache appear is important.