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A headache is a symptom when children or adults experience pain on or in the face or head. If your child is complaining of headaches, certain characteristics (such as the onset, duration, pain, severity, and location of the headache) can help doctors at Children's Hospital Colorado determine the cause.
Associated symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light or sounds and triggers also help our team distinguish between different causes of headaches.
A headache can be a symptom of a variety of health conditions. The most common cause is usually a primary headache (a migraine or tension headache) or from a cold and other infections like flu or strep throat.
Less common causes of headaches can include neurological infections, masses and other structural abnormalities. However, these are very rare and have characteristics that will help your child's doctor establish a diagnosis.
"Primary headaches" include migraines, tension-type headaches, and cluster/trigeminal autonomic cephalgias. The most common headaches in children are migraines and tension-related.
Headaches can be a common problem in children. Up to 11% of children and 28% of adolescents have reoccurring headaches. Children of both genders and all races can get headaches.
If your child is experiencing headaches, your primary care provider is the best place to start. He or she can help guide you and make a referral to a specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado if needed.
Additional headache resources:
The signs and symptoms of headaches vary from child to child and can depend on the type of headache. The two most common types of childhood headaches are migraine and tension-type headaches.
Migraine headaches are recurrent headaches that occur at intervals of days, weeks or months. Migraines in children generally have some of the following symptoms and characteristics:
Tension-type headaches are recurrent headaches that generally have some of the following symptoms and characteristics:
Headaches can become chronic when they occur more days of the month than not.
Chronic headaches can result from taking some types of medication—for example, acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Motrin), using caffeine or some prescription medications—more than 2 to 3 days per week. These are called medication overuse headaches.
In general, headaches do not require any blood work or brain imaging. Depending on your child's headache symptoms, the following diagnostic tests may be requested by your primary care provider or neurologist at Children's Hospital Colorado:
The diagnosis of a headache is usually based on your child’s medical history and a physical examination. Extra testing is rarely needed.
At Children’s Colorado, headache diagnosis relies on using the International Classification of Headache Disorders criteria for headache types.
Headaches are best treated with a combination of lifestyle and behavior modification. Your child’s doctor at Children's Hospital Colorado may also suggest medication treatments to help your child's headaches
At our several Headache Clinics, we collaborate with providers in multiple disciplines to offer comprehensive care for our patients with childhood and adolescent headaches. These disciplines include neurology, psychology, yoga therapy and nutrition. The Headache Clinics at Children's Colorado provides care of the highest quality to kids and adolescents with headaches. After your child is seen in one of our clinics, we’ll work with your primary care physician to help manage your child’s headaches.
Our goals are to:
We have several clinics to best fit your child’s needs. The below table shows the types of clinics and providers who will see your child.
|Clinic type:||Type of patient visit:||Who is present?||How to be referred:|
|Neurology||First time visit||Neurology provider||Self or via primary care physician (PCP)|
|Headache Clinic||First time visit||Headache provider||Self or via PCP|
|Integrative Headache Clinic||Must be seen by a neurologist or special permission||Headache provider
|Child and Adolescent Headache Clinic||Must be a patient of Child Health or Adolescent Clinics at Children’s Hospital||Headache provider||Referred by Child Health or Adolescent Provider|
Experts from the Headache Clinics at Children's Hospital Colorado are participating in several research studies for pediatric headache and migraine.
Please email us at email@example.com or call 720-777-8588 if you are interested in participating or receiving information about our current headache studies.
Referrals for appointment can be made either by physician referral or self-referral. Please contact your insurance provider to obtain prior authorization as needed.
We ask that you bring a copy of your child’s pertinent medical records to the visit for us to review, unless they were obtained at Children's Colorado.
Pertinent medical records include
For more information about the Headache Clinic at Children's Hospital Colorado please call the Neurology Department at 720-777-6895.
Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Neurology - Pediatric, Pediatrics