Kids' headaches increase at back-to-school time supported by many evidences
Physicians’ findings from Nationwide Children's Hospital reported that headaches increase in fall in children and the trend might be due to back-to-school changes in stress, routines and sleep. Although it may be difficult for parents to sense a real headache from a child just wanting to hold onto summer a little longer and avoid going back to school, there are other common causes including poor hydration and prolonged screen time that might contribute to a child's discomfort.
According to Ann Pakalnis, MD, lead researcher, Attending neurologist & Director, Comprehensive Headache Clinic, Nationwide Children's, their families and patients in clinic have reported that their child or teenager's headaches increased during the school year. Thus, the researchers looked at emergency visits for that time period to see if there were more visits at certain seasonal variations during the year.
Retrospective analysis of about 1300 emergency department visits from 2010-2014 was involved in research, conducted by Pakalnis and fellow neurologist Geoffrey Heyer, MD. Results showed an increase in headaches in fall in children aged 5 to 18 years, when monthly emergency department visits were grouped seasonally.
According to Dr. Pakalnis, Professor, Clinical Pediatrics and Neurology, The Ohio State University College of Medicine, lot of headaches in young boys, from 5 to 9 years of age is commonly seen which tends to get better in later adolescence while in teenage girls, migraines was reported around the time of puberty and unfortunately tend to persist into adulthood.
Tension headaches and migraines are the two types of primary headaches seen frequently by physicians. Migraine is less common in children and is generally associated with nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light, sound and smell. The tension headaches involve tightening around the head and children can have their normal day despite the discomfort. Number of factors like academic stressors, schedule changes and an increase in extracurricular activity might cause increase in fall headaches. Other factors include lack of adequate sleep, skipping meals, poor hydration, too much caffeine, lack of exercise and prolonged electronic screen time.
Results of Dr. Pakalnis research confirmed the importance of lifestyle changes in managing headaches and migraines, and minimizing stressors will decrease headache and migraine frequency.
According to Howard Jacobs, MD, Headache specialist, Nationwide Children's Hospital, our brain is like our cell phone, which works well only when it is plugged. Similarly, if we don't plug our brain in by providing energy, it will not work well causing headache. Dr. Jacob believes that eating three meals a day, getting enough sleep at night without napping during the day, drinking enough liquids and working to remove the stresses in a child's day can prevent headaches. Painkillers like acetaminophen, ibuprofen may be helpful, but can make headaches worse, if taken frequently. To manage and prevent headaches, parents must work with their child's doctor. A sudden, severe headache or a change in the headache sensation from previous, what we call 'first or worst' headaches should be evaluated and also if the headaches are interfering with a child's normal routine, after evaluation, therapy can be introduced to return child's life to normal.