When kids have a headache the question she gets most often from parents is about ruling out something serious like a brain tumor or meningitis. In fact, most headaches are not indicative of serious illnesses like this. In her article about pediatrician-approved natural remedies for your child’s headaches, Dr. Song shares the symptoms that should prompt you to see a doctor because they could indicate something more serious.
In school-aged children, the #1 cause for headaches is simply dehydration, which is common for adults as well. Dr. Song recommended using coconut water, bone broth, yummy herbal teas or to make popsicles for kids because it can be difficult to get them to just drink more water.
Kids and adults are both chronically deficient in magnesium which we get naturally from dark leafy greens, dark chocolate, nuts, and seeds. Taking supplements may not be the best solution for kids, though. You can give your kids epsom salt baths so that they absorb magnesium through their skin. Baths do double-duty because they relax the muscles that can be causing the headache as well. You can even add a few drops of essential oils like lavender & peppermint to help calm inflammation, migraine associated nausea or just assist with relaxation.
Dr. Song teaches the parents of her young patients how to use acupressure on themselves and their kids. There is one particularly helpful point is called “large intestine 4” that helps soothe headaches. This spot is a bit inward from the webbed part between your thumb and pointer finger. Massage it firmly with both your index finger and thumb in a circular motion about 100 times and that should provide some relief. This spot can be tender when you or your child have a headache so you can start gentle and get more firm as you go. This helps with sinus headaches, tension headaches and migraines and it’s great trick for kids with intermittent headaches.
When a child has chronic headaches and migraines these techniques can be used in the acute state but it’s important to focus on how we reduce the number of migraines they get on the whole.
The root causes of headaches are very similar between adults and kids. For example:
- Hormone balance: There is an epidemic of PCOS in teenage girls and frankly, being on birth control indefinitely isn’t a real solution. We can look at these kinds of hormone imbalances analytically and support the body to restore balance.
- Gut health is important in kids just as it is in adults and kids can have food sensitivities or a leaky gut. Headaches could also be caused by yeast overgrowth or parasites.
- Food reactions: In addition to the common food sensitivities like gluten and dairy, isre are a subset of kids who are sensitive to things like artificial coloring and flavors, preservatives, phenols, and salicylates.
- Blood sugar balance: Something that is even more of an issue for kids than adults is the sugar roller coaster and that is compounded by attention and behavioral issues. Our children go from sugar highs to sugar lows and even a normal load of sugar can cause their insulin to skyrocket. It’s important to teach kids that food can cause them to feel the way they feel when they have a sugar crash accompanied by a headache.
Simply telling kids to eat healthier isn’t going to cut it, there has to be a more concrete reason for them to change their behavior. I wrote a guest blog post for Dr. Song’s site about what I learned as a teenager with chronic headaches that will help the parents of teens when it comes to motivating them to adopt a healthier diet.
In addition to food choices, lifestyle changes will support the work you and your children do to get rid of their headaches. Dr. Song spends a lot of time talking about sleep and stress reduction with her patients for this reason.
Teens, in particular, need a concrete idea of how much sleep they need vs what they’re actually getting. Tools like the FitBit allow them to see how much deep sleep they get and how many times they wake up during the night.
It is never too early or too late for your child to start learning mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation for stress management. Without those tools, the stress of life is harder to handle, especially for kids who are under more stress in school. Last but not least there are also both therapeutic and stress management benefits to spending time out in nature getting exercise. All of these options can be used to provide migraine and headache relief for children.
Finding the root cause of headaches can provide answers for kids and adults living their lives on Tylenol & Ibuprofen. There are lower limits for what kids can take in general and the dosage depends on weight. Dr. Song pointed out that over time these drugs harm your gut lining and they increase the likelihood of developing leaky gut and gastric bleeding so these drugs aren’t as harmless as we think. You can minimize the need for and use of these drugs by finding the root cause of your child’s headaches!