Headache

Headaches in children are common. Most of the time they are mild and only happen from time to time.

  • There are plenty of things you can do to help your child to feel better such as making sure they drink plenty of water, taking regular exercise and ensuring they are sleeping well.
  • Stress can often play a part in children's headaches, especially the older they get so make sure you have a good chat about what is going on in their life
  • Sometimes headaches can be a sign of something more worrying. Please see the table below for some of this things to look out for.
When should you worry?

If your child has any of the following:

  • If your child becomes very sleepy with their headache or is difficult to wake
  • If your child’s headache is associated with confusion, disorientation or change in behaviour
  • If your child’s headache is waking them from sleep
  • If your child’s headache is worse on coughing or straining
  • If your child develops new, persistent blurring of their vision, double vision, new squint or abnormal eye movements
  • If your child develops new weakness/ loss of balance / co-ordination problems / abnormal head posture or walking difficulties
  • If your child develops vomiting overnight or persistent daytime vomiting related to headache.

You need urgent help.

Go to the nearest Hospital Emergency (A&E) Department or phone 999

If your child has any of the following:

  • If your child’s headache is unresponsive to initial advice/treatment given by your doctor/nurse
  • If your child needs paracetamol or ibuprofen more than 3 times a week
  • If your child’s headache is impacting on school attendance

You need to contact a doctor or nurse today.

Please ring your GP surgery or call NHS 111 - dial 111

If none of the above features are present.

Self care

Continue providing your child’s care at home. If you are still concerned about your child, call NHS 111 – dial 111

This guidance has been reviewed and adapted by healthcare professionals across South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw with consent from the Hampshire development groups.

How can you help your child’s headache?
  • Start a headache diary. Record date, time, triggers, severity and any other associated symptoms. Ensure your child is drinking a good amount of fluid (no caffeine/fizzy drinks)
  • Ensure your child is eating regular meals and doesn’t skip meals
  • Ensure your child is getting good sleep
  • Ensure your child is having regular exercise
  • Consider limiting screen time
  • Simple analgesia paracetamol or ibuprofen can be given but less than 3 times a week.
  • Book your child an eye test with your local optician

Health visitors are nurses or midwives who are passionate about promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing illness through the delivery of the Healthy Child Programme. They work with you through your pregnancy up until your child is ready to start school.

Health Visitors can also make referrals for you to other health professionals for example hearing or vision concerns or to the Community Paediatricians or to the child and adolescent mental health services.

Contact them by phoning your Health Visitor Team or local Children’s Centre.

Sound advice

Health visitors also provide advice, support and guidance in caring for your child, including:

  • Breastfeeding, weaning and healthy eating
  • Exercise, hygiene and safety
  • Your child’s growth and development
  • Emotional health and wellbeing, including postnatal depression
  • Safety in the home
  • Stopping smoking
  • Contraception and sexual health
  • Sleep and behaviour management (including temper tantrums!)
  • Toilet training
  • Minor illnesses

For more information watch the video: What does a health visitor do?

School nurses care for children and young people, aged 5-19, and their families, to ensure their health needs are supported within their school and community. They work closely with education staff and other agencies to support parents, carers and the children and young people, with physical and/or emotional health needs.

Contacting the School Nurse

Primary and secondary schools have an allocated school nurse – telephone your child’s school to ask for the contact details of your named school nurse.

There is also a specialist nurse who works with families who choose to educate their children at home.

Sound Advice

Before your child starts school your health visitor will meet with the school nursing team to transfer their care to the school nursing service. The school nursing team consists of a school nursing lead, specialist public health practitioners and school health staff nurses.

They all have a role in preventing disease and promoting health and wellbeing, by:-

  • encouraging healthier lifestyles
  • offering immunisations
  • giving information, advice and support to children, young people and their families
  • supporting children with complex health needs

Each member of the team has links with many other professionals who also work with children including community paediatricians, child and adolescent mental health teams, health visitors and speech and language therapists. The school health nursing service also forms part of the multi-agency services for children, young people and families where there are child protection or safeguarding issues.

If you’re not sure which NHS service you need, call 111. An adviser will ask you questions to assess your symptoms and then give you the advice you need, or direct you straightaway to the best service for you in your area.

Sound advice

Use NHS 111 if you are unsure what to do next, have any questions about a condition or treatment or require information about local health services.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

A&E departments provide vital care for life-threatening emergencies, such as loss of consciousness, suspected heart attacks, breathing difficulties, or severe bleeding that cannot be stopped. If you’re not sure it’s an emergency, call 111 for advice.

Sound advice

  1. Many visits to A&E and calls to 999 could be resolved by any other NHS services.
  2. If your child's condition is not critical, choose another service to get them the best possible treatment.
  3. Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about going to A&E or riding in an ambulance
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