Headaches common in kids months after head injury

According to study, headaches can affect performance in school and other activities. (Shutterstock)

According to study, headaches can affect performance in school and other activities. (Shutterstock)

Elaine Lies, Reuters

, Last Updated: 12:51 AM ET

Children who suffer a concussion or other traumatic brain injury are more likely to develop headaches for up to a year after, affecting their performance in school and other activities, a U.S. study said.

More than half a million children in the United States go to hospital each year with brain injuries, often due to rough play in sports, falls or car accidents.

“It’s an issue because they may have problems with sleep, and the headaches can make it harder to concentrate,” said lead author Heidi Blume of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute in the study, published in Pediatrics.

Blume and her colleagues tracked more than 400 children who had come into the emergency room with a brain injury, with 402 having a mild injury and 60 having moderate or severe injury.

Parents and children kept a diary of any headaches the children reported for a year.

After three months, 43 out of every 100 children who experienced a mild brain injury complained of headaches. Of those with moderate or severe brain injuries, 37 out of every 100 complained of headaches.

Researchers compared this to children who had visited emergency rooms for bodily injuries, such as those to an arm, and found that only 26 out of every 100 reported having headaches three months later.

Blume said that headaches can have a large impact on children’s lives, both by affecting their studies and quality of life issues, such as forcing them to drop out of sports or other activities that could potentially trigger headaches.

Researchers also found that the risk for having headaches after a head injury was especially pronounced among girls.

Girls who had a mild brain injury were more than twice as likely to have headaches as girls who had an arm injury, whereas boys had nearly similar rates of headaches regardless of the type of injury.

The study did not determine why this was, but thought a combination of factors might be involved. This includes the fact that women and girls have a higher rate of migraines, which may be due to hormone levels — suggesting that hormones might also play a role with headaches after brain injury as well.

The challenge for any child suffering headaches after a brain injury is that there are few ways to treat them, experts said.

“Right now we have no studies to guide the treatment of post-traumatic headaches in children,” said Karen Barlow at Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary, Canada, who was not involved in the study.

Rest and hydration are usually recommended, but Barlow said there’s only anecdotal evidence backing these up.

Fortunately, it appears that 12 months after a brain injury, the headaches seem to go back to the levels seen among children who have suffered a bodily injury, the study said.


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