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For Some Kids, Back to School Means Back to Headaches

Some kids will do anything to get out of going to school.  They feign illness and plead disease just so they can stay in bed and out of class.  Most parents are hip to this fake sick routine and in the absence of a fever or other telltale signs of a real illness, will insist they get up and go.

But when your kid complains of something hard to disprove – like a headache – what do you do?  If it happens a lot, you may be tempted to assume it’s just another ploy to get out of going to school.  But according to Dr. Andrew Hershey, professor of pediatrics and neurology and director of the Headache Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, your kid’s headache might be a migraine and going to school may actually be contributing to it.

Migraine is an inherited neurological condition that many believe children are immune to.  But while the condition may present differently in children than it does in adults, Dr. Hershey says kids can and do suffer from migraines. A migraine in a child may last an hour or as long as three days.  A child’s migraine may mimic a sinus headache with pain across the forehead or at the temples.  And sometimes, the pain isn’t even felt in the head but in the stomach, which can lead to vomiting or feelings of vertigo.

In addition to puberty, back-to-school changes in sleep schedule, skipping breakfast and not drinking enough water can bring on migraines in children.

It is estimated that as many as 10 percent of young children and up to 28 percent of older teenagers suffer from migraines.   So, how do you know if your kid is one of them?

First, if your child is complaining of headaches on a regular basis, try some lifestyle changes.  Make sure he’s getting enough rest, eating breakfast and drinking enough water.

If the headaches persist, see your doctor.  Because if he is faking, making that appointment might just result in a miraculous recovery in time to catch the school bus.  If not, then your doctor can discuss pain relief strategies and preventative therapies that may help your child feel well enough to go back to school pain free.

Image: brymo/Flickr

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