Decoding teen headaches

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Teens and Headaches: Common Concerns!
By Nisha Jackson PhD, MS, WHCNP, HHP
Southern Oregon Radio Host

Teenagers will tell you that nearly everything about adolescence is a headache. Because headaches are a common adolescent concern! The most important thing to understand about adolescent headaches is the same for adult headaches — that is, usually they’re nothing to worry about.

Headaches have multiple causes, some easy to fix, others more concerning. Headaches that affect school attendance or decrease the ability to concentrate and learn or to socialize with peers, warrant a trip to a health care provider. If anyone of any age describes a headache as the “worst I have ever had,” he or she needs to seek medical advice immediately. The following is a list of headache causes and treatment options that parents need to keep in mind:

Dehydration.  Make sure to drink water consistently throughout the day, up to 8 glasses if possible.

Low blood sugar or blood sugar swings. Start each day with a breakfast that includes protein. Do not go longer than four hours without a meal or snack. Afternoons are notorious for headaches, especially when lunch is at 11 or noon and it is after 4 pm. Have healthy snacks available after school. Instead of “ruining” dinner, snacks a couple hours before a meal can improve the mood around the dinner table.

Hormones. The estrogen and progesterone changes in females during the pre-menstrual phase and during the period can cause headaches. Having hormone levels checked and replacing deficiencies can be helpful.

Stress. Increases in stress cause changes in body processes and can result in headaches. Stress headaches are usually in the neck and back of head. Massage and relaxation techniques can be helpful.

Lack of sleep. Teens need at least eight hours of sleep, and most need more. If schedules prevent this, or insomnia is a problem, this can be easily treated with sleep hygiene advice and natural supplements. See your health care provider.

Any of these symptoms — whether or not accompanied by headaches — should spur you to talk with your teenager.