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Chronic Post Traumatic Headache in Children


A chronic post-traumatic headache (CPTH) develops days to weeks after a head injury and lasts longer than 3 months. A CPTH can also be a symptom of a more serious condition called post-concussion syndrome (PCS). PCS is a group of symptoms that affect your child's nerves, thinking, and behavior.


Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You cannot wake your child.
  • Your child has a seizure.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your child has a sudden headache that seems different or much worse than his usual headaches.
  • Your child has sudden vision changes.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has headaches more often, or his pain is more severe.
  • Your child has pain that starts when he strains or changes positions.
  • Your child has headaches that wake him during the night.
  • Your child has pain that is not helped with pain medicines.
  • Your child always has pain on the same side of his head.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.


Headache pain is easier to control if pain medicine is taken as soon as your child start to feel pain. Your child will need to limit pain medicines to prevent a condition called rebound headaches. His healthcare provider will tell you when and how often to give pain medicine. Your child may need any of the following:

  • Prescription pain medicines may be given to control or prevent headache pain. Your child's healthcare provider will tell you which medicines may work for your child.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him or her. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain. Acetaminophen is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give your child and how often to give it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • Medicine may be given to control nausea or vomiting.
  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Manage your child's symptoms:

  • Keep a headache record. Include when they start and stop and what made them better. Describe your child's symptoms, such as how the pain feels, where it is, and how bad it is. Record anything he ate or drank for the past 24 hours before the headache. Bring this to follow-up visits.
  • Apply heat or ice as directed. Heat and ice help decrease headache pain, and heat can also relieve muscle spasms. Cover the heat or ice pack with a towel before you place it on your child's skin. Apply heat on the area for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed. Apply ice for 15 to 20 every hour or as directed. Your child's healthcare provider may recommend that you alternate heat and ice.
  • Have your child drink liquids as directed. Your child may need to drink more liquid to prevent dehydration. Dehydration can cause a headache. Ask your child's healthcare provider how much liquid your child needs to drink each day and which liquids are best for him.
  • Set a regular sleep schedule. A lack of sleep can trigger headaches or make them worse. Have your child go to bed and wake up at the same times each day. Talk to his healthcare provider about any problems with sleeping.
  • Talk to officials at your child's school. This will help them understand how to help your child. Your child may have attention or memory problems that he did not have before the headache began. He may need extra help to finish his homework or exams.
  • Offer your child a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Do not give your child foods that trigger his headaches.
    Healthy Foods
  • Have your child exercise regularly. Exercise helps decrease stress and headaches. Ask about the best exercise plan for your child. Ask if it is safe for your child to play sports. He may not be able to play contact sports, such as football, until he does not have symptoms. He will need to wear proper sports equipment to help prevent another concussion.
    Family Walking for Exercise
  • Do not let your adolescent smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can trigger a headache and also cause lung damage. Ask your adolescent's healthcare provider for information if he currently smokes and needs help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before your adolescent uses these products.

For more information:

  • Brain Injury Association
    1608 Spring Hill Road
    Vienna , VA 22182
    Phone: 1- 703 - 761-0750
    Phone: 1- 800 - 444-6443
    Web Address:

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Bring the headache record with you when you see your child's healthcare provider. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Chronic Post Traumatic Headache in Children (Aftercare Instructions)

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