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Teens and Headaches

I get headaches a lot. Is there something wrong with me?

You are not alone, a lot of teens get headaches. In fact, 50% to 75% of all teens report having at least one headache per month!

The pain can range from dull to throbbing. If you're getting headaches more often or if the pain is getting worse with each headache, your pediatrician can help you manage the pain.

Types of Headaches

The most common headaches for teens are tension-type headaches and migraines.

  • Tension-type headaches often feel like a tight squeezing or pressing band is around your head. The pain is dull and achy and is usually felt on both sides of the head, but may be in front and back as well. There is usually no sense of nausea or vomiting with tension-type headaches.
  • Migraines are very painful episodes of headache. A migraine often lasts for hours up to 2 days. It may feel like the inside of your head is throbbing or pounding. Migraines are usually felt on only one side of your head, but may be felt across the forehead. A migraine may make you feel light-headed or dizzy, and/or make your stomach upset. You may even vomit with a migraine. Sometimes, you may see spots or be sensitive to light, sounds, and smells. If you get migraines, chances are someone in your family also has this problem.

About 1% to 2% of teens suffer from headaches more than 15 days per month, sometimes even daily. This is called chronic daily headache and is most often a form of chronic migraine. This is a tough problem to tackle, so when you have this kind of headache, it is good to see your pediatrician as soon as possible.

When to See Your Pediatrician

If you are worried about your headaches—or if this problem begins to disrupt your school, home, or social life—see your pediatrician. Also call your pediatrician if you experience any of the following:

  • Head injury—Headaches from a recent head injury should be checked right away—especially if you were knocked out by the injury.
  • Seizures/convulsions—Any headaches associated with seizures or fainting require immediate attention.
  • Frequent headaches—You get more than one headache a week.
  • Severe pain—Headache pain is severe and prevents you from doing activities you want to do.
  • Headaches in the middle of the night—Headaches that wake you from sleep or occur in early morning.
  • Eye problems—Headaches that cause blurred vision, eye spots, or other visual changes.
  • Other symptoms—If fever, vomiting, stiff neck, toothache, or jaw pain accompany your headache, you may need an exam—including laboratory tests or x-rays.
Last Updated
Important Information for Teens Who Get Headaches (Copyright © 2008 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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