Headaches are a common complaint in children of all ages. I can personally empathize with all of my headache-suffering patients because I started having chronic headaches when I was just a young child. Different types of headaches can have different root causes, but all headaches are bothersome and potentially disruptive to your child’s daily activities. While headaches are common, they deserve a complete, possibly urgent evaluation in the following scenarios:
- Headaches wake your child up in the morning or are associated with morning nausea or vomiting (urgent)
- Headache is associated with fever and/or neck stiffness (urgent)
- Headaches occur more than 3 days a week
- Your child is unable to participate in activities such as school or extracurricular activities more than twice a month due to headaches
- You are at all concerned by the frequency or intensity of your child’s headaches
If headaches are only occasional, or if worrisome conditions are ruled out after a thorough evaluation, the conventional recommendation would be to give acetaminophen or ibuprofen when your child has a headache. However, the holistic approach we take at CentreSpring MD is to find the root cause, encourage preventive measures like good nutrition, hydration and sleep, and provide natural remedies when headaches do hit. Here are my five favorite integrative and holistic remedies for headache treatment and prevention in children.
- Peppermint Oil
Pure, therapeutic grade peppermint oil is a potent and effective remedy for both headaches and associated nausea. I always recommend diluting essential oils before applying them topically, and always keep the oils away from the eyes. Peppermint oil can be applied to the temples (in children old enough not to rub it into their eyes), forehead, and back of the neck to help calm a headache when it hits. This can be repeated as frequently as needed until the problem is resolved. You can also apply the diluted peppermint oil to the upper abdomen and to the insides of the wrists to help with any nausea.
Magnesium can be used both to acutely treat a headache, as well as to help prevent more chronically occurring headaches. An easily absorbable form of magnesium like Magnesium Glycinate, is my recommendation. The dose is determined by the child’s age and size, as well as by what has worked for them in the past. Since magnesium is relaxing, the daily preventive dose is best given in the evening.
Even in the conventional world, Riboflavin (also known as Vitamin B2) is given to help prevent headaches, with evidence most available specifically for migraines. Again, the daily dose would be determined depending on the child’s size and age.
Both standard and needle-free acupuncture can be used as a treatment for acute headaches, and also as a preventive strategy for chronic headaches. This is a therapy that we are happy to be able to offer at CentreSpring MD, performed by our certified acupuncturist.
- Eliminate Food Triggers
I often encourage kids who suffer frequent headaches to keep a headache diary to include a log of their food/drink intake. Food sensitivities can be a root cause for recurrent headaches, so looking for food associations in a headache diary often helps find the culprits. Remember that symptoms from food sensitivities are not always immediate; they can take 24 hours to 5 days to develop. A few years ago, I discovered that the root cause of my headaches was a significant gluten/wheat sensitivity. I know now that the onset of my severe headache or migraine is not until at least 24 hours after accidental ingestion. Sometimes, just eliminating common food culprits like wheat/gluten, dairy (especially hard cheeses), MSG, and chocolate can be enough to decrease the frequency and severity of headaches. If doing this does not do the trick, we can test for food sensitivities using our ALCAT or IgG testing modalities.
One of the most gratifying things I get to do as a holistic pediatrician is treat headaches, especially since I suffered so regularly from headaches most of my life. Finding the root causes, and supporting the body as it heals is a favorite part of my job. Do you have a favorite natural headache remedy? Let us know in the comments!
|Dr. Jamilet Alegria, M.D., joined the CentreSpring MD team of providers in the fall of 2016 after spending years as a Pediatric Hospitalist at both CHOC Children’s in Orange County and at the Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center Inpatient Pediatrics Unit in Southern California.|
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Categories: Pediatric Wellness