If you’ve ever suffered from headaches, you know how awful they can be. I, knock-on-wood, don’t often get headaches, but the ones I’ve had have been doozies and I have endless empathy for kids and adults who get them on a regular basis. And of course, when your child has a headache, the first concern that might pop into some of your heads is that something could be wrong, really, really wrong.
The first thing to know is that the vast majority of headaches do NOT signify an underlying brain tumor or meningitis. But, as a pediatrician, I want to remind you of the warning signs for when you should check in with your doctor. Take your child to the doctor if he/she:
- Has a headache that occurs with a head injury, even a seemingly mild one.
- Has a headache upon waking, or is worse first thing in the morning after waking.
- Has an associated fever.
- Develops pain or stiffness in the back of their neck when touching chin-to-chest.
- Is acting confused, not making good eye contact, is very sleepy and difficult to arouse, or is unusually fussy, irritable or truly “inconsolable”
- Is vomiting and can’t keep fluids down.
- Has a headache that lasts for more than a few days.
- Has chronic headaches that are worsening or changing in pattern or intensity.
- You are very worried about your child and just want him checked out (trust your mama sense!).
Now that that’s out of the way, know that most headaches in children can be addressed with holistic approaches and natural remedies.
Tip #1: Get Hydrated
The #1 reason for headaches in kids is dehydration.
How much fluid should your child be drinking each day? As a general rule, take your child’s body weight in pounds, divide in half, and that’s how many ounces of fluids your child should be drinking at a minimum each day. For instance, my 50-pound 6-year-old son should drink at least 25 ounces of fluids each day. And if it’s a very hot day or your child will be sweating and losing additional fluid from exercise she should be drinking even more!
So WHAT should your child drink? Good ol H2O is awesome. But when your child is dehydrated, a drink with electrolytes is ideal to replenish those minerals, keep him hydrated, and reduce those headaches. Here are some of my favorite fluids for kids:
Coconut water is one of my favorite drinks chock full of amazing electrolytes to keep our cells super-hydrated with just the right amount of sugar. I love the taste of coconut water all by itself in its unadulterated glory, but you can add a bit of unsweetened juice to suit your child’s palate if needed. You can make natural jello, fruit juice popsicles, and smoothies with coconut water to keep your kids hydrated be as creative as you can!
Herbal teas are another amazing way to keep your kids hydrated while also providing other healing benefits. Chamomile tea is calming, relieves pain and spasms, soothes upset tummies, and fights inflammation caused by fevers and colds. Peppermint tea cools the body, relaxes the mind, reduces nausea and helps with pain. Ginger tea reduces nausea and inflammation often associated with headaches. You can add honey (if your child is over 1 year old), which has its own immune-boosting benefits, or make popsicles, jello or smoothies with them just like with coconut water above.
Bone broth! No discussion about hydration would be complete without discussing the amazing healing and hydrating benefits of bone broth. It?s so easy to make ? much easier than you think! And most health food stores are now selling delicious made-for-you bone broths. Drink it like tea. Use it as a base for your child’s favorite soup. Use it instead of plain water to cook your child?s rice or pasta. The variety of ways you can use bone broth is endless ? only limited by your imagination!
Tip #2: Fill Up On Magnesium
There’s a huge epidemic of magnesium deficiency. We can pretty much assume that most of us are at least insufficient in this miracle mineral. Not only does it relax the body, it relaxes the mind and it is amazing for headaches! There are various forms of magnesium. They’re all relaxing, but magnesium glycinate has the most calming effects. Magnesium citrate can help loosen bowel movements if constipation is an associated issue for your child. (Constipation is also rampant among our kids. See my blog post?Oh, Crap!?for more tips on how to handle constipation naturally.)
What dosage? Well, that depends on how deficient you are to begin with. The RDA for magnesium is about 2 milligrams (mg) per pound of body weight. But most people need way more than that. A general rule of thumb would be to take up to 5 times your body weight in milligrams (mg) of magnesium. So, my 50-pound 6-year-old could take about 250 mg of magnesium daily. And if he?s having a really bad headache, he might need even more! The only caveat you want to work up slowly because magnesium can sometimes cause diarrhea?
Epsoms salts are another amazing way to passively get magnesium into your child and relieve their headache. Pour 1/2 1 cup in your kids bath and just sit back and let the calm fill her body. Epsom salts are magnesium sulfate. Our skin is our largest organ, and everything that comes into contact with our skin gets absorbed into our body, So just soaking in epsom salts will help to increase our body?s magnesium levels. Throw in some healing essential oils, and aahhhh
And please do share this post with any parent you know who has a child suffering from headaches.
Holistic mama doc Elisa Song, MD