CHICAGO, IL - With the beginning of the school year upon us, many parents are focusing on the education of their children, but along with thinking about academics, parents should be aware that their child might experience headaches as a result of resuming the school year. Nearly 30% of children miss school or other activities because of headache according to an online survey conducted by the National Headache Foundation (NHF). Sixty-five percent of survey respondents stated that stress is a headache trigger and 56% of children with headaches feel pressure to receive good grades.
For children, the start of school can be a time of both anticipation and anxiety. Facing new teachers, friends and classes along with changes in daily routine can be common triggers of migraine and tension-type headaches. Thirty-five percent of those completing the survey said there was pressure to fit in with peers. Unfortunately, young children are often unable to effectively communicate their symptoms, making it difficult for parents to recognize a recurring problem. According to the NHF survey, 56% of child sufferers experienced their first headache before age 10.
Treatment options also pose a challenge for young headache sufferers upon their return to school. The NHF survey found that 82% of affected children take over-the-counter medications; however, many schools have adopted zero-tolerance policies with regard to bringing these types of drugs to school. Parents should review the school’s policy to determine what is permitted and also make sure that every teacher, the school nurse and administrators are informed about the child’s headache condition.
Many parents are not aware that kids may be susceptible to chronic headaches, because the common misconception is that headaches are an adult disease. According to the NHF, signs your child may be suffering from migraine or chronic headaches include:
- Experiences car or motion sickness
- Wakes up because of headache
- Headache severity increases or headaches occur more frequently
- Changes in temperament or personality
- Nausea, vomiting or stomach pain
- Headache goes away with rest
- Pain increases with physical activity
- Other family members experience migraine (survey results indicate that 69% have a family history of headache)
If your child experiences one or more of these signs, the NHF recommends that you schedule an appointment with the child's healthcare provider to specifically discuss a potential headache problem. Your best ally in helping your child cope with headache is a doctor who knows your family and is willing to spend sufficient time to diagnose and treat the problem.
In addition to consulting your healthcare provider, the NHF encourages parents to implement the following tips into their family’s daily life:
- Keep a diary of your child's headaches - Recording different factors experienced before and during the attack can help establish a pattern and may enable your doctor to pinpoint cause(s) of the headache. Time of onset, length of headache, intensity, location of pain, symptoms, and foods eaten are all important to record in the diary. A downloadable headache diary is available at www.headaches.org in the educational resources section. Eighty-two percent of survey respondents do not keep a diary.
- Make sure your child gets plenty of sleep at regular times - Overexertion and fatigue, commonly experienced when starting a new school schedule, can trigger headaches. Help your child get acclimated to his new routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time even on weekends, with this pattern beginning at least one week before school starts. According to the NHF survey, only 59% of children with headaches go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday during the week.
- Avoid changes in your child’s eating routine - Maintain a consistent schedule of balanced meals and snacks. Hunger and eating at irregular times can trigger headaches. Avoid foods that may trigger your child’s headaches including hot dogs, lunch meat and pizza.
- Encourage open communication about your child's back-to-school fears - Discussing any concerns or fears about returning to school may reduce your child's stress level, which may decrease the occurrence of headaches. Thirty-five percent of survey respondents feel depressed because of their headache condition.
The NHF offers a unique online resource, CHILDREN’S HEADACHES: An informative guide for young sufferers, their parents and school health professionals, at the NHF Web site at www.headaches.org which explores headaches from the perspective of a child and an adult. The resource provides information about symptoms and treatments of children's headaches and offers tips and resources for addressing the social, emotional and academic impact of headache on kids.
The NHF is also offering two tip sheets, one for parents and one for kids, by contacting the NHF toll-free at 1-888-NHF-5552 (M-F 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. CST) or at www.headaches.org.
The National Headache Foundation (NHF), founded in 1970, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving headache sufferers, their families and the healthcare providers who treat them; promoting research into headache causes and treatments; and educating the public to the fact that headaches are a legitimate biological disease and sufferers should receive understanding and continuity of care.
Interviews with headache specialists and patients can be arranged upon request by e-mailing email@example.com. An electronic copy of this press release is also available by contacting the same e-mail address.
Tip Sheets for Parents and Kids Available Online or by Calling Toll-free at 888-NHF-5552
National Headache Foundation
Brent Roberts or Brooke Highline
Merton G. Silbar Public Relations