Home Remedies for Your Child’s Headache: Natural Relief

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Many types of headaches can occur in children, with multiple different causes ranging from anxiety to a lack of hydration or rest. If these headaches are infrequent and all serious symptoms have been ruled out, however, they can be safely treated at home.

Read more about home remedies for your child’s headache.

A boy lays on a sofa with his hand on his forehead, suffering from a headache.

elvira boix gomez / Getty Images

Causes of Headaches in Children

The exact cause of headaches isn’t known, but some factors that contribute to the development of headaches in children include:

  • Viral illness
  • Hunger
  • Common harmless causes, such as hard exercise, bright sunlight, gum chewing, severe coughing, and consuming icy food or drink
  • Muscle tension
  • Stress, anxiety, or worry
  • Frontal sinus infection
  • Genetics (migraines appear to run in families)
  • Certain foods or food additives like nitrates (common in deli meat and aged cheeses)
  • Certain smells, such as perfumes (including in scented products), paint, gasoline, bleach, foods, and cigarette smoke
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of proper sleep

Less common, but more serious causes of headaches in children include:

  • Head injury
  • Meningitis
  • Other medical conditions such as tumors, seizure disorders, and bleeding in the brain

What Is Meningitis?

Meningitis is a serious, potentially fatal, bacterial or viral infection of the membrane that covers the spinal cord and brain.

If the headache is accompanied by a stiff neck, particularly with fever, or if a younger child is lethargic or unable to be consoled, seek emergency treatment.

Types of Child Headaches

Children’s headaches fall into two basic categories: primary and secondary.

Primary

Primary headaches are not linked to another health condition.

The most common types of primary headaches in children are:

  • Tension headaches: The most common form of headache; usually doesn’t involve significant symptoms other than the headache
  • Migraines: Can involve other symptoms such as sensitivity to light and/or sound, nausea/vomiting, a change in vision, sweating, and more

Secondary

Secondary headaches are less common. They are caused by a problem in the brain, abnormalities in the brain structure, or another health condition.

Home Remedies for Your Child’s Headache

For headaches and migraines that don’t require medical attention, there are ways to soothe symptoms for your child at home. These include:

  • Rest or sleep: Resting or sleeping in a dark, quiet room is often the most effective way to relieve a headache or migraine.
  • Cool compress: Apply to the forehead, eyes, or back of the neck.
  • Heat: Apply a warm (not hot) compress on your child’s head or neck, or have them take a warm bath or shower.
  • Relaxation: This can include deep-breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, mental imagery relaxation, or relaxation to music.
  • Food or water: Give food if your child is hungry, and/or try water or juice if you think they need hydration.
  • Medication: Pain relief medications such as ibuprofen (Advil/Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol), can help relieve a headache, particularly if given early into the headache, before it gets very painful. Never give aspirin to a person under age 18, as it can cause a rare but potentially fatal condition called Reye syndrome.

A Caution About Pain Medications

While medications such as Advil, Motrin, or Tylenol can be helpful in the short term, they should not be given for a headache more than two to three times a week. If these medications are given more often than this for several weeks, it can make the headache worse (called a rebound headache).

If your child is having headaches that require medication more often than this, see their healthcare provider for longer-term options.

When to Seek Professional Treatment

Call 911 if you think your child has a life-threatening emergency or if your child:

  • Is hard to wake up or passed out
  • Has a stiff neck
  • Acts or talks confused
  • Has weakness of an arm or leg on one side of the body
  • Shows signs of dehydration

Seek immediate but non-emergency care if you think your child needs to be seen urgently or your child:

  • Is vomiting
  • Has blurred vision or is seeing double
  • Looks or acts very sick
  • Has pain that is bad enough to wake them

Contact a healthcare provider within 24 hours if you think your child needs medical care, but not urgently, as well as for:

  • Fever
  • Sinus pain in the forehead
  • Swelling around the eye (with pain)
  • Headaches caused by straining from coughing, sneezing, running, or having a bowel movement
  • Headaches that occur along with pain in the eye or ear, confusion, nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, or numbness

Call a doctor during office hours if you have other questions or concerns, or if your child has:

  • A headache without other symptoms that lasts more than 24 hours
  • A headache you suspect is a migraine, but has never been diagnosed
  • A sore throat lasting more than 48 hours
  • A headache lasting more than three days
  • Frequent headaches

Ways to Prevent Headaches in Children

Some ways to help stop headaches and migraines from occurring, or lessen their frequency, severity, or duration, include:

  • Learning triggers and avoiding them: Keep track with a journal.
  • Lowering stress and anxiety: This may include regular relaxation techniques, seeing a counselor for underlying causes of stress, or addressing anything else that causes your child stress.
  • Eating a healthy diet: Provide a variety of healthy foods to help prevent deficiencies, and have your child eat at regular times (especially breakfast).
  • Getting adequate sleep: Foster healthy sleep habits, and see a healthcare professional if sleep disturbances or disorders are suspected.
  • Exercising: Encourage regular activity, when not experiencing a headache.
  • Hydrating: Give your child plenty of non-caffeinated, low-sugar drinks throughout the day.
  • Following up: If headaches or migraines are common, a healthcare provider may want to look for an underlying cause and suggest ongoing treatment or preventative medications.

Summary

While headaches are common in children, they are rarely worrisome. Most headaches can be treated at home or prevented with simple measures, such as rest and sleep, a cool compress or heat, staying hydrated, and some over-the-counter medications.

If you think your child’s headache is more serious, or they are showing signs of needing medical attention, call 911 if it is an emergency or their primary healthcare provider if it is less urgent.

A Word From Verywell

While a headache can normally be managed from home, it is still a very unpleasant experience. Ensuring your child practices healthy lifestyle habits can often help with their headaches.

However, some headaches are too much to take care of on your own, especially when they’re happening frequently or are causing severe pain. If your child is having severe headaches, talk to your doctor about creating a care plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I worry about my child’s headache?

Call 911 if your child:

  • Is hard to wake up or passed out
  • Has a stiff neck
  • Acts or talks confused
  • Has weakness of an arm or leg on one side of the body
  • Shows signs of dehydration
  • Has a life-threatening emergency

Which home remedy will get rid of my child’s headache fast?

The remedy depends on the cause of the headache, but resting or sleeping in a dark, quiet room is often all that is needed.

Will fruit help take away a child’s headache pain?

Fruit is unlikely to relieve all headaches, but it may help some. It can hydrate and help relieve hunger, which may help relieve a headache, and some fruits, such as bananas, contain vitamins and minerals that may also help with headaches.

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10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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