Headaches in Childhood

January 28th, 2008

Headaches in childhood should always be looked upon as a matter for serious inquiry and care; for they may be excited by very many causes. Even the headaches of children are divided into various classes; thus there is the school headache, the headache which is peculiar to periods of rapid growth, the headache which is caused by bloodlessness and nervous exhaustion, and that which is peculiar to any strain. The exciting causes are generally excessive fatigue, exhaustion of mind or nerve, digestive disorder, changes in the weather, badly heated and ill-ventilated rooms, want of exercise, poverty of the blood, or disorder of the blood by various impurities developed in the system, over-work, excitement, undue exposure to heat or cold, colds in the nose and back of the throat, or decayed teeth.

Headaches caused by bloodlessness should give rise to careful investigation of the diet, and lead one as a rule to decide that plenty of blood-making food, such as meat broths, green vegetables, and iron tonics are required, while a great deal of outdoor exercise is needed. It must be remembered that not every pale-faced child is suffering from poverty of the blood, and that some who are well supplied with fat may have poor blood. If the child is really suffering in this way, the insides of the eyelids and gums are invariably of a pale yellowish colour; the colour of the lips and cheeks does not afford so good a test.

When a child complains of headache after study, or using the eyes over close work, such as writing, drawing, or sewing, it should certainly be taken to an oculist, for very often the use of glasses is imperative, owing to some defect in the eyes, which, not uncommonly, is that the sight of one eye is different to that of the other.

Children who indulge in over-eating or careless eating may be relieved either by spontaneous vomiting, or the mother should give an emetic or aperient. Headaches caused by chronic cold are, of course, only to be removed by treatment of this complaint, and the same may be said of those due to decayed teeth, or to the pressure on the nerves by over-crowding of the jaw.

Nervous headaches in the children of parents who suffer from rheumatism or gout depend much on the weather, and yield to anti-rheumatic treatment, especially warmth and warm bathing with the use of sulphur.

For headaches caused by dyspepsia, is is often desirable to peptonise the food, and to assist the stomach by small doses of camomile or calumba infusion before meals. Hysterical and imitative headaches are sometimes found in children of parents who suffer in a similar way, and in those accustomed to associate with people complaining of headache. In these cases the treatment is, of course, mainly moral; but the patient often also requires tonics, good food, gymnastics, bathing and outdoor exercise.

For the external treatment of headaches of most kinds hot foot baths, or mustard foot baths are of great service, with the application of a mustard plaster for a few minutes to the back of the neck; while to the seat of the pain menthol or chloral and camphor may be applied; and either hot or cold applications or gentle rubbing of the head, also often give immense relief.

Source: Home Notes, January 1895


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