Natural Remedies For Children’s Headaches
Since headaches are one the most common ailments in the world affecting millions of people per year, it is easy to find a remedy in medication. However, most of the medications on the market are not meant for children. Children are also commonly affected by headaches, with most of the headaches not being serious. Like adults, there are many different types of headaches, and reasons to why your child has a headache.
Types of Headaches and Reasons for Headaches
Headaches are most often referred to as primary or secondary. Headaches that fall into the primary disorder category are tension headaches, migraines, and chronic headaches. The most commonly diagnosed primary headache disorder is tension headaches. Children can also be diagnosed with chronic headaches, which are defined as having a headache for at least 15 days in one month period.
Secondary headaches will have an underlying medical problem. These are normally what are seen in emergency departments, and the most common causes of this type of headache are colds, flus, and sinusitis. Most times, secondary headaches stop when the illness is gone, or shortly after.
Another common reason children get headaches is sight. Sight can play a huge part in how many headaches your child has. Uncorrected vision can cause headaches as the brain has to work harder to correct the version itself, and can cause eye strain. Once a child is six years old, they should have a vision screening done. If their sight is worse than 20/30, they should be referred to an optometrist to be evaluated to see if your child needs glasses. Getting a child to wear glasses can be a challenge, but they need to as not wearing their glasses leads to high glass prescriptions, and worse headaches as their eye sight gets worse.
There are other common reasons that a child may having recurring headaches. Dr. Heidi Blume made an easy to remember mnemonic “SMART”. “SMART” stands for:
Sleep is one of the most important things for growing children; however, not getting enough sleep or too much sleep can cause headaches. Also, changes and disruptions to your child’s regular sleep schedule can also cause headaches. The amount of sleep a child needs does vary from child to child, and is affected by the age of the child. A good rule of thumb is a school age child should get between eight to ten hours of sleep every night.
Children should be eating at least three full meals a day. When children get older, and school starts at an earlier time, many children start to skip breakfast. Sometimes, at school, many children have started to eat less, and may only be eating small things like granola bars, and cookies in place of lunch. While this is still eating something, this not enough for the body to run on, and can cause a headache due to low blood sugar. Also, being hydrated is important. Most schools now allow water bottles, and have water bottle fill stations. Being dehydrated is one of the fastest and easiest ways have getting a headache, but is the easiest to cure. Make sure that your child carries a water bottle, and stays hydrated.
Activity is important to be healthy, so it makes sense that too little activity would cause a headache from the extra energy that is not burned off. Too much activity also can cause headaches due to exhaustion. The amount of activity that children need depends on a lot of factors, but children need to get at least one hour of physical activity per day.
Stress also affects children. Most teenagers are dealing with higher stress levels than most working adults. Stress comes from schoolwork, post high school planning, and peer pressure. Most teens, and some older children can also be dealing with stress from family life as well. Children need to be taught how to relax and make time to relax, even if that means no technology.
Triggers are a difficult cause of headaches to deal with. Most people say to stay away from your known triggers, but for some children this means that they could not go out into public places. Smells are also one of the most common triggers. Many children have a sensitivity to selective body care product fragrances. Another common trigger is food. This could due to high amounts of sugar, caffeine, or a preservative.
Most of today’s forms of headache treatments come in the form of painkillers, and NSIAD’s. While there are children’s versions of these treatments, there are other remedies that you can try before using painkillers. Here are some of the most common natural remedies for headaches that you can try to see if your child’s headaches get better.
Essential oils can be used for just about everything. For headaches, a mixture of lavender and peppermint essential oil, and a carrier oil like coconut oil applied to the upper neck and shoulder can help. The lavender oil reduces muscle tension, and the peppermint oil can help improve circulation. Lavender oil is also used to help lower stress levels, and help sleep, which are two causes of headaches in children.
-Vitamins and Minerals
Most children do not get all the vitamins and minerals they need from food. Also, some vitamins and minerals have secondary effects on the body. Two of the common vitamins and minerals that help with headaches are B-Complex Vitamins and Magnesium. Vitamin B in most forms is hard to get, so it is common to see many different Vitamin B bottles. The best option is to get the B-Complex vitamins as they have a mix of most of the Vitamin B’s that your child may be missing. Vitamin B is important since it involves the formation of the neurotransmitters like serotonin, which are lower in people that have migraines and chronic headaches. Magnesium can help lower the risk of migraines, and tension headaches, as magnesium helps with relaxation.
-Diet and Dehydration
Diet can play a huge part in dealing with headaches. Chronic headaches can be helped with some basic diet changes, and other types of headaches risks can be lowered. Sugar, caffeine, and preservatives have all been found to cause headaches in children at different amounts. You could try cutting these all out of your child’s diet, but once your child is school age, and older, you are going to have tough time doing that. The best option is to lower the amount you give them per day. If you know that your child has a food allergy or sensitivity, try to completely remove that item from their diet, as headaches can be a side effect of this. Tyramine is another common food trigger. Tyramine can be found in foods like pork, smoked fish, coffee, cold cuts, chocolate, cheese, and other foods. Not everyone gets a headache from tyramine, but many people do. Cold foods can also be a trigger for a headache. This is due to cold foods being able to restrict that blood vessels in and around the mouth causing headaches. The restriction of the vessels is what causes brain freeze, which can lead to a full blown headache over time. A very common cause for headaches is dehydration. If your child isn't drinking enough water throughout the day it will definitely lead to a headache. A lot of kids don't want to take the time to stop and have some water when they are playing but some simple reminders will help.
A general rule of thumb when it comes headaches in children is to get them to eat something. Children are known to forget to eat, and headaches can set in quickly when blood sugars are low. Most children will tell you if they are hungry, but sometimes they are too busy playing or doing homework to remember to eat. Also, try to have them drink water to stay hydrated. A tip to get your child to drink more water is to let them pick their water bottle. You can also add to fruit to add flavour in place of sugar based juice mixes. Common fruits and vegetables to add are cucumbers, strawberries, raspberries, lemons, and limes. If your child does not like taking vitamins, replace the magnesium pills with bananas, nuts, and green leafy vegetables. These foods are high in magnesium, which helps with relaxation of muscles, and can decrease stress.
Headaches are very common in children. Most times, a headache is not a reason to panic and take them to a hospital. Sadly, most times as a culture we are told to just take a pain killer, instead of finding the real cause of the headache until it becomes a larger issue. With how many things that are known to cause headaches, it can be a challenge to pin point the triggers, but knowing how to deal with it naturally means less over the counter pills.