Preparing for your appointmentBy Mayo Clinic staff
For headaches in children, you typically make an appointment with your family doctor or your child's pediatrician. Depending on the frequency and severity of your child's symptoms, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in conditions of the brain and nervous system (neurologist).
Because appointments can be brief and there's often a lot of ground to cover, it can help to be well prepared. Here are some tips to help you get ready for your child's appointment and what to expect from the doctor.
What you can do
- Write down your child's signs and symptoms, when they occurred and how long they lasted. It may help to keep a headache diary — listing each headache, when it happens, how long it lasts, and what might have caused it.
- Make a list of all medications, as well as any vitamins or supplements, that your child is taking.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor. Don't be afraid to ask questions or to speak up when you don't understand something your doctor says.
List your questions from most important to least important in case your time with your doctor runs out. For headaches in children, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is likely causing the symptoms?
- Are tests needed to confirm the diagnosis?
- What is the best course of action?
- Does my child need prescription medication, or would an over-the-counter medication work?
- What kind of follow-up, if any, is needed?
- What can we do at home to help lessen the pain?
- What can we do at home to prevent headaches?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
- When did the symptoms first start?
- How often does your child experience these symptoms?
- How long does the headache usually last?
- Where does the pain occur?
- Have the symptoms been continuous or intermittent?
- Does your child have other symptoms, such as nausea or dizziness?
- What, if anything, makes it better?
- What, if anything, makes it worse?
- Have the symptoms changed over time?
- What treatments have you tried?
- What medications does your child take?
- Do other family members experience headaches?
What you can do in the meantime
While waiting for your child's appointment, place a cool, wet cloth on your child's forehead and encourage him or her to take a nap in a dark, quiet room.
Also, consider giving your child over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) to ease symptoms. Use caution when giving aspirin to children or teenagers. Though aspirin is approved for use in children older than age 2, children and teenagers recovering from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms should never take aspirin. This is because aspirin has been linked to Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition, in such children. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns.
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