Why Do I Get Headaches

Help for Teens

Although the triggers* may be different, teens get the same types of headaches as adults. Headaches can be divided into two broad categories. Primary headaches include tension headaches and migraine headaches. Secondary headaches have underlying causes such as infection, disease, or injury.

What type of headache do you have? Let’s look at the symptoms:

Tension-Type Headaches

Tension or Stress headaches feel like pressure on your head, usually on both sides but can also be on top. Your neck and shoulders may also feel tight and stiff. The pain is steady and not throbbing. You may be sensitive to light or sound (not both). The pain is usually mild to moderate and for the most part, doesn’t affect a teen’s activity level.

Migraine Headaches

Typically, these headaches recur at intervals of days, weeks, or months. There may or may not be a pattern to the attacks. The symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light and sound (both)
  • The pain is throbbing or pounding and is severe
  • Pain gets worse with movement or exertion
  • These headaches are usually on one side of the head but can be on both
  • Untreated, they can last from 2 to 48 hours or longer
  • A Warning may occur just before the headache pain starts. The warning may be flashing lights, blurred vision, colored spots, or strange tastes or sensations. They usually precede the headache by a few minutes to an hour.

This type of headache can be debilitating to a teen or anyone else, making it impossible to continue normal activities. One proven way to relieve this type of headache is to go into a dark, cool, and quiet room, lie down, and put a cool cloth over your eyes and forehead. Then stay still until you fall asleep. Enough sleep will usually get rid of the headache.

Rebound Headache

Chronic headaches can be a result of taking some types of medication such as Tylenol or Motrin, caffeine or some prescription medicines almost every day. These are called drug rebound headaches. The best way to get them to stop is to stop taking any pain medication or caffeine for a few weeks. Then keep the use to only 2 or 3 times per week.

*Triggers – Prevention

It is also important to drink enough water. Teens need 8 glasses of water per day. Sports drinks can be helpful when you have a headache as well as when you are playing a sport.

Make sure you get enough rest. This is difficult with a teen’s busy schedule but very important. Fatigue and over exertion are two factors that can trigger a headache.

Try to avoid foods that trigger headaches. Your triggers may be different from another person’s. To learn your triggers, it is helpful to keep a diary of what you eat and when, when you have headaches, and how severe they are.

Here is a list of known triggers:

By keeping a headache diary, you will narrow the list to the ones that apply to you.

  • Chocolate, cheese, pizza, alcohol, ice cream, fatty or fried food, lunchmeats, hot dogs, yogurt, aspartame, or anything with the seasoning MSG (monosodium glutamate)
  • Change in the weather
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Skipping meals
  • Not eating at regular intervals during the day or not eating a balanced diet
  • Vinegar (except white vinegar)
  • Sour cream, yogurt
  • Nuts, peanut butter
  • Hot fresh breads, raised coffee cakes and doughnuts
  • Lima beans, navy beans and pea pods
  • Canned figs
  • Bananas
  • Pork
  • Food dyes
  • Sauerkraut
  • Caffeine (soda, coffee, tea, and chocolate)
  • Becoming dehydrated
  • Being under a lot of stress
  • Having a minor head injury
  • Using the computer or watching TV for a long time
  • Experiencing changes in hormone levels
  • Smoking
  • Taking a long trip in a car or bus
  • Listening to loud music

Odors such as these may also have an effect

  • Perfume, gasoline
  • Various food odors

Sound complicated? When you get your energy back and reduce or eliminate your headaches, you may find it well worth it! These are your teen years, be healthy and enjoy them!

Why Do I Get Headaches Sources:

  • American Council for Headache Education Kids Health (online)