Young boy with an apple slice

Children's Headaches

When your child has a headache, it can interfere with school, sports and other activities. There are many causes for pediatric headaches. The doctors at MaineHealth have the skill and experience to diagnose and treat headaches in children.

What are pediatric headaches?

Headaches may be painful throbbing or like something tight is squeezing around the skull. Headaches sometimes can be hard to diagnose in young children, because children may not have the words to describe how they feel.    

What are headache symptoms?

The cause and symptoms of headaches vary depending on the type of headaches. Symptoms of headaches can also be different in a child than in an adult. Some symptoms of a headache are:

  • Mild pain on both sides of the head

  • Sharp pain on one side of the head

  • Muscle tightness in the neck or around the head

  • Pulsing or throbbing pain

  • Pain that gets worse with movement

  • Stuffiness in the head or nose

  • Watery eyes

If the pain is severe, as with a migraine, the child also may have:

  • Upset stomach

  • Stomach pain

  • Vomiting

  • Sensitivity to light or sound

What causes headaches?

Headaches are common and can be caused by many different things such as:

  • Illness

  • Stress

  • Allergies

  • Head injury

  • Foods

  • Medicines

  • Taking too much pain medicine, like Tylenol

  • Rarely, a brain tumor, infection, or bleeding

Primary Care is Your First Stop for Care

Whether you choose a pediatrician for the kids and an internal medicine doc for the adults -- or opt for a family medicine doctor for the entire family -- Maine Health has the primary care providers and services to meet your needs.

Not all headaches are the same

Here are different types of headaches:

  • Tension headaches are common and feel like a tight band around the skull.

  • Migraines are severe headaches that can have other symptoms, like vomiting or sensitivity to light.

  • Cluster headaches cause sharp pain on one side of the head and also watery eyes or a stuffy nose. 

  • Sinus headaches are pain or swelling in, around, or behind the sinuses near your eyes.

  • Daily or chronic headaches occur more than 15 days each month. They can be migraine or tension headaches.

  • Post-injury headaches are caused by a blow to the head such as a sports injury or car accident.

What to expect at the doctor's office


Your doctor can likely tell if you have headaches by listening to your symptoms and doing a physical exam. Your provider also may also check movements, vision, and balance. If your child has headaches, his or her doctor may treat with:

  • Over the counter medicines like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin)

  • Prescription medicines that can treat migraines and the nausea associated with them

  • Other supplements such as magnesium or vitamin D

There are other things you can do to help ease the pain such as:

  • Relaxation

  • Applying hot or cold packs to the head

  • Therapy to help control pain response

  • Therapy to help manage stress

Healthcare just for kids

Discover the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital, Maine's only full-service children's hospital.