When does your child’s headache call for med­i­cal help?

The Borneo Post - Nature and health - - Front Page -

HEADACHES are com­mon in chil­dren and teens, but many par­ents aren’t sure when to seek pro­fes­sional help for their child, a new sur­vey finds. The sur­vey of par­ents with chil­dren aged six to 18 found that two-thirds said their child has had a headache not caused by a fall or head in­jury. “Headaches are very com­mon in chil­dren and usu­ally not dan­ger­ous or dis­rup­tive,” said Sarah Clark, co-di­rec­tor of the C.S. Mott Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal Na­tional Poll on Chil­dren’s Health at the Univer­sity of Michi­gan.

“But in rare oc­ca­sions, they can also be a symp­tom of a more se­ri­ous health is­sue. Par­ents should be able to recog­nise signs that in­di­cate a po­ten­tially more ur­gent sit­u­a­tion,” such as menin­gi­tis, she added. Three-quar­ters of the par­ents said they would take their child to the emer­gency depart­ment if he or she had a headache with re­peated vom­it­ing, and two-thirds would do so if their child had a headache with neck stiff­ness and fever.

“Although very rare, menin­gi­tis strikes quickly,” Clark said in a univer­sity news re­lease. “If a child has a se­vere headache along with neck stiff­ness, per­sis­tent vom­it­ing and fever, par­ents should get prompt med­i­cal ad­vice -- at the ER (emer­gency room) or from their child’s reg­u­lar doc­tor.”

Some par­ents may de­lay seek­ing care be­cause they be­lieve their child has been vac­ci­nated against bac­te­ria that cause menin­gi­tis, even though the child may not have re­ceived all the rec­om­mended vac­cine doses, ac­cord­ing to Clark. Menin­gi­tis causes in­flam­ma­tion of the pro­tec­tive mem­branes that sur­round the brain and spinal cord. Some cases of bac­te­rial menin­gi­tis can be deadly.

Clark said par­ents who no­tice pos­si­ble signs and symp­toms of menin­gi­tis should seek med­i­cal ad­vice im­me­di­ately, re­gard­less of their child’s vac­cina- tion his­tory. The poll also re­vealed that only half of par­ents would seek med­i­cal care for a child with a headache so painful that the child had to leave school, while one-third of par­ents were un­likely to call a doc­tor in such cases.

“Chil­dren de­scribe and ex­pe­ri­ence headaches dif­fer­ently from adults, which can make it chal­leng­ing for par­ents to de­ter­mine whether or not to take the ex­tra step of call­ing a doc­tor,” Clark said. While most par­ents said they gave their child an over-the-counter pain re­liever for a headache, one in six par­ents said they would not give a child pain medicine un­til a health care provider could de­ter­mine the sever­ity of the headache.

“With­hold­ing pain re­lief med­i­ca­tion is un­nec­es­sary, and just pro­longs the child’s suf­fer­ing,” Clark said. “Doc­u­ment­ing key in­for­ma­tion -- such as how the child re­sponded to medicine, what seemed to make the child feel bet­ter or worse, and if the child has a his­tory of headaches -- is much more help­ful to providers.”

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