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Cluster Headache in Children


A cluster headache is a very painful headache that starts quickly, peaks within 15 minutes, and stops suddenly. The headache usually lasts 30 to 60 minutes but can last up to 3 hours. Cluster headaches follow patterns and often occur at the same time of the day or year. Your child may have cluster headaches once every other day, or up to 8 each day. A cluster headache in children can be triggered by medicine, stress, bright light, or heat. A cluster period usually lasts for 2 to 12 weeks but can last longer than a year. Weeks or months may pass before a new cluster period begins. Cluster headaches are less common in children than in adults. Children usually do not grow out of cluster headaches.


Call 911 if:

  • Your child's pain is so bad he or she talks about committing suicide.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your child feels more tired or sleepy than usual.
  • Your child has vision changes.
  • Your child's stomach is upset or he or she is vomiting.
  • Your child has a seizure.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child cannot get enough sleep because of the headaches.
  • Your child's headaches happen each time he or she is active.
  • Treatment does not help your child's symptoms.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.


Your child may need any of the following:

  • Migraine medicine may be given to relieve pain quickly.
  • Steroids may help reduce pain and swelling. Steroids may also be used to prevent cluster headaches.
  • Seizure medicine may be given to prevent cluster headaches.
  • Mood stabilizers may be given to prevent cluster headaches. This medicine helps balance chemicals in your child's brain.
  • 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.

Help manage your child's cluster headaches:

  • Do not let your adolescent smoke. Cluster headaches are more common among smokers. Ask your healthcare provider for information if your adolescent currently smokes and needs help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your adolescent's healthcare provider before he or she uses these products.
  • Do not let your child travel between altitudes. Altitude changes can trigger headaches. Do not let your child fly on an airplane or travel between places with high and low altitudes.
  • Set a regular sleep schedule. Have your child go to sleep and wake up at the same times each day. Changes in sleep patterns may trigger cluster headaches.
  • Manage stress. Stress or emotional challenges can trigger cluster headaches. Find out what works for your child to lower stress.
  • Keep a headache record. Write down when your child's headaches start and stop, and exactly what your child was doing when they began. Record what your child ate or drank and how much he or she slept in the 24 hours before the headache. Keep track of the things you or your child did to treat the symptoms. Write down if they did or did not help. Do this to learn what triggers your child's headaches and how to make them go away.
  • Work with your child's healthcare provider to manage your child's pain. Both pain relievers and medicines used to treat other health conditions can trigger cluster headaches. Go over all your child's medicines with your healthcare provider. Work with the provider to manage your child's headache pain and other conditions.

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

Bring the headache record. 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.

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