When back-to-school spells headaches, healthy life­style habits can help.

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - NATION+WORLD -

For many chil­dren, the aca­demic and so­cial pres­sures of go­ing back to school can add up to ma­jor stress and headaches.

“It’s com­mon for par­ents to sud­denly hear their chil­dren com­plain­ing of headaches at this time of year,” says Cleve­land Clinic pe­di­atric headache spe­cial­ist A. David Roth­ner, MD.

Like adults, chil­dren can ex­pe­ri­ence two headache pat­terns: mi­graine or ten­sion/chronic headaches.

Dr. Roth­ner says par­ents can eas­ily rec­og­nize these signs of mi­graine, a se­vere, oc­ca­sional headache: • Look­ing pale • Act­ing grouchy • Be­ing both­ered by light and noise • Not want­ing to eat, nau­sea and vom­it­ing

For most chil­dren, the mi­graine ends within two hours on its own or with sim­ple anal­gesics such as ac­etaminophen or ibupro­fen. “Many kids fall asleep, which al­most in­vari­ably ends the mi­graine,” adds Dr. Roth­ner.

Ten­sion/chronic headaches are milder, more fre­quent headaches that don’t bring on the nau­sea or other fea­tures of mi­graine.

About 1 per­cent of young­sters de­velop chronic headaches. “Young­sters with chronic daily headaches seem to be ex­traor­di­nar­ily sen­si­tive to the start of school and the as­so­ci­ated stress, and typ­i­cally fare the worst,” says Dr. Roth­ner.

To help min­i­mize the like­li­hood of headache, en­cour­age your child to: • Eat three meals a day with healthy snacks in

be­tween. • Drink at least six 8-ounce glasses of water daily. • Be phys­i­cally ac­tive or ex­er­cise at least three

times a week. • Sleep at least eight hours ev­ery night. • Eat a diet rich in fruits and veg­eta­bles, whole

grains and lean pro­tein.

Keep an eye on how much over-the-counter pain med­i­ca­tion your child is tak­ing. “We try to limit chil­dren who use pain re­liev­ers like ibupro­fen or ac­etaminophen to tak­ing them twice a day, two days a week,” ex­plains Dr. Roth­ner. “More fre­quent use can lead to ‘re­bound’ headaches that are worse.”

Par­ents can learn a lot by talk­ing with their child to iden­tify any stres­sors re­lated to school, aca­demics or bul­ly­ing, and cre­at­ing strate­gies to help cope with these stres­sors.

Also, watch for “red flags” – overus­ing med­i­ca­tion or miss­ing too much school – that should prompt a visit to your pe­di­a­tri­cian or fam­ily physi­cian.

If needed, your physi­cian can re­fer your child to a pe­di­atric neu­rol­o­gist with ex­per­tise in headaches. For an ap­point­ment with Dr. Roth­ner or any pe­di­atric neu­rol­o­gist, call 866.588.2264. Cleve­land Clinic of­fers same-day ap­point­ments.

A. David Roth­ner, MD

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