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Headaches Common for Children and Adults
A headache can range from annoying to debilitating. A common condition that affects children and adults, headaches can be classified as primary or secondary and can be treated with medication and lifestyle adjustments.
"There are literally hundreds of causes of headaches," says Guillermo Philipps, M.D., pediatric neurologist. "The first thing we have to establish is if the headache is primary—or not the result of another medical condition— or secondary—which means the headache is caused by another problem, like a sinus infection, meningitis, brain tumors, aneurysms, etc. Many times, a diagnosis can be made clinically, or by basic evaluation, but some children may require neuroimaging—like CT scan or MRI—to rule out secondary causes."
Dr. Philipps says he sees migraine and tension headaches most often, and treatment involves both medication and non-medication management. "Medication management involves two different types—abortive and preventative," Dr. Philipps says. "Abortive medication stops a headache, is most effective when taken at the onset of a headache and can be purchased over-the-counter. Preventative medication is taken every day to decrease the frequency and severity of headaches when frequent headaches interfere with school, work or other aspects of life."
Non-medication management involves recognizing and adjusting lifestyle factors, including:
- Obtaining sufficient and quality sleep
- Eating three meals, plus adequate hydration and snacks each day
- Managing stress
- Avoiding caffeine
- Refraining from excessive television or computer screen time
- Exercising regularly
- Avoiding excessive use of abortive medication
Not every child or adult who experiences headaches needs to see a neurologist. "Recurrent, unexplained headaches, those that do not respond to over-the-counter medications or those that progressively worsen or impair daily life should be evaluated," Dr. Philipps explains.
“Many times, a diagnosis can be made clinically, or by basic evaluation, but some children may require neuroimaging— like CT scan or MRI—to rule out secondary causes”.
Types of Headaches
Guillermo Philipps, M.D.
Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida
9800 HealthPark Drive, Suite 140
Fort Myers, FL 33908