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Headaches in Adolescents

Headaches in Adolescents



Headaches in Adolescents

Headaches in Adolescents

For many parents, their children’s adolescence gives them headaches. However, the reality is that adolescence can also give teens headaches, too! Before we get to the specifics of headaches in adolescents, let’s look at a brief summary of what headaches are, and how they’re classified.


What are headaches? Can my teen get headaches?

The short answer to the last question is yes. Just as adults and young children get headaches, adolescents can get headaches. Research suggests that more and more modern adolescents suffer from headaches, especially migraines, than in the past.1

A headache is not a pain in your brain. Actually, a headache is a pain from something that disturbs the nerves of the blood vessels and muscles in your head, face, and neck. Doctors don’t know what causes headaches and divide them into four broad categories. For this article, we’re concerned with three that are most likely to affect teenagers.

Headache is one of the top five diseases of childhood and affects up to 75% of adolescents.2

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are probably the most common headache pain, and like adults, teens are not immune from stress. Adolescence is a difficult time, anyway, but along with the joys of being a near adult, comes pressure – from peers and school examinations – to name just two. When kids are really tense, and their head and neck muscles contract, a headache happens.3


Migraines are the second most common type of headache. They affect about 1 in every 10 people and tend to be more common in women than men. About 28% of teens between 15 and 19 years old suffer from migraines. If they were already migraine sufferers, these migraines are often worse than when they were small children.4

A migraine is a complicated headache that is divided into three stages: before the pain begins, the actual headache, and the postdrome stage after the headache. Among the signs that your teen might be developing a migraine is sensitivity to light, sound, or smell, exhaustion, mood changes, not wanting to eat, or even food cravings. In extreme cases, they even have scary, almost stroke-like symptoms (aura) that can include gleams of light, blurred vision, funny smells, numbness, weakness, or even speech difficulties.5

The next phase is the actual headache. Your teen may feel nauseous, vomit, and complain that their head is even sorer if they do anything physical. Finally, when the pain goes, they could be anything from totally exhausted, so blissfully happy.6


Cluster headaches

Unlike migraines, cluster headaches tend to be more common in boys than girls. As with so many headaches, the experts don’t know what causes them.

These headaches happen in groups or clusters and involve the trigeminal nerve in the face and head. Often cluster headaches have a pattern, happening at the same time of the day or night. These headaches are shorter than migraines but much more painful. If your teen has cluster headaches the intense pain could make them agitated and jittery. Often, these headaches are triggered by things like strong smells, exercise, alcohol, bright lights, and heat.7,8

Girls and boys

We have already noted that girls suffer more from migraines and that boys from cluster headaches. There’s another reason why female adolescents are more likely to suffer from headaches than their male peers. Before girls and boys reach puberty, they get headaches for about the same amount of time. When girls start getting their periods, they may get hormonal headaches which are a result of changes in levels of oestrogen and progesterone. However, they can also have headaches that happen after especially heavy periods because they have lost iron. Bear in mind, too, that if your daughter suffers from migraines, she’s more likely to suffer from headaches when she has her period.9,10

Chronic Headaches

Headaches that may or may not include migraines, are considered to be chronic if they happen 15 times or more in a month. For anyone, especially a teenager, having headaches about 50% of the time is going to have a huge impact on school, home, and their social lives.


What causes headaches in adolescents?

In answering this question, we have to separate primary headaches from secondary headaches. The headaches we have discussed so far, which can run in families, are primary headaches. Secondary headaches are usually associated with another condition or illness, like influenza, or very serious illnesses like meningitis and even cancer.


Other reasons for teenage headaches

In addition to what we’ve mentioned, there are some typically adolescent things that can trigger headaches. We’ve also mentioned stress, and then how many of our kids forget to drink enough water? Dehydration, coupled with too much coffee (caffeine) and skipping meals can cause headaches. Then there’s the challenge of too much screen time on one hand, and loud music on the other and the likelihood that with either studying or discovering the party life, lack of sleep.11

What to do about adolescent headache pain?

If your teen has a headache, you may want to consider some home remedies like rest and staying away from light in a darkened room.

When should I take my teen with a sore head to the hospital?

We mentioned that some headaches are different and could be caused by an underlying medical condition.  In addition to your instinct as a parent when your child is getting sick, here are some obvious and not so obvious answers about when to go to the emergency room:12

  • a head injury, e.g. from playing sport
  • the headache comes back, gets worse, or lasts longer than 12 hours
  • If the child has any of these symptoms and headache
    • a stiff neck
    • cannot see
    • muscle weakness
    • fever
  • Symptoms that wake them during the night

Sometimes, though, medication is necessary, and this is where Cipladon can help. Here, we give a useful guide to how much you can give your kid (and take yourself), bearing in mind that teens (children over 12) are dosed as adults.

Cipladon 500 mg makes a sweetened flavoured drink, so it is easy to give, tastes great, and relieves pain and fever f-f-faster!


Disclaimer: The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.


  1. Jeong, Y. J., Lee, Y. T., Lee, I. G. &amp; Han, J. Y. 2018 Primary headaches in children and adolescents – experiences at a single headache center in Korea. BMC Neurology 18. [Online] Available from <> 21/12/2022
  2. Kacperski, J., Kabbouche, M. A., O’Brien, H. L. & Weberding, J. L. 2015. The optimal management of headaches in children and adolescents. Therapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders 9, 53–68. [Online] Available from <> 21/12/2022
  3. What is a tension headache? The Johns Hopkins University [Online] Available from <> 18 May 2022
  4. Kacperski, J., Kabbouche, M. A., O’Brien, H. L. & Weberding, J. L. 2015. The optimal management of headaches in children and adolescents. Therapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders 9, 53–68. [Online] Available from <> 21/12/2022
  5. Davis, P D,. 2021 Definition of Aura RxList [Online] Available from <> 18 May 2022
  6. Melinda Ratini, DO, MS Reviewer), 2020. What Is a Migraine? WebMD [Online] Available from <> 18 May 2022
  7. Headache. The Johns Hopkins University [Online] Available from <> 18 May 2022
  8. Robinson, J. Reviewer. 2022. Cluster Headaches. WebMD [Online] Available from <> 18 May 2022
  9. Snyder, A.; Ernst, H. (Reviewer) 2018 What Causes Headaches After Periods? [Online] Available from <> 19/09/2022
  10. Headaches and Women: What Do Hormones Have to Do With It? The Johns Hopkins University [Online] Available from <> 19/09/2022
  11. Editorial Contributors, Khatri, M. 2021. What Should I Do for My Child’s Headaches? WebMD [online] Available from <> 20/12/2022
  12. Editorial Team, Gill, K. 2019. How to Recognize Migraine Pain in Teens. Healthline Media [Online] Available from < > 20/12/2022

Please note the content on this website is not intended to be a substitute to a medical professional consultation.