Prevent Future Episodes
One of the most important ways to avoid more headaches is getting adequate sleep. In a study published last year, Dr. Pakalnis and her colleagues found that adolescents with headaches had significantly more sleep problems (like trouble falling asleep and middle-of-the-night awakenings) than those without headaches. She believes these findings apply to younger children too. "It's hard to sort out which comes first, the headaches or the sleep problems, but we know that a lack of sleep exacerbates headaches significantly," says Dr. Pakalnis. "Kids who have allergies or large tonsils -- which can cause snoring and interfere with sleep -- also tend to have more severe headaches," she says.
Her study also found an association between headaches and caffeine, largely because caffeine can interfere with sleep. So while a little cola can help stop headaches when they start, in general avoid giving your child any caffeinated foods or drinks.
Beyond good sleep, headache prevention comes down to healthy living. Making sure your child is hydrated, doesn't miss meals, and stays active can all help stave off head pain. Taking a multivitamin may also help. Research has shown that deficiencies in riboflavin and vitamin D can increase headache frequency. School-age children also do well with biofeedback, a treatment that teaches them to use imagery -- something kids are particularly good at -- to gain control over what's happening in their body.
Recently, after a six-month reprieve, Camden Lewis felt a headache coming on just before an outing with friends. His mother gave him a dose of ibuprofen, and he was out the door. As he sped away on his scooter, his mom watched a different boy from the one who, two years ago, couldn't have ventured any farther than his bedroom.