Management of children and young people with headache

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Abstract

Headache is very common in children and young people. The correct advice and treatment requires consideration of a wide differential diagnosis between primary and secondary headaches, and also of the different types of primary headache. The International Classification of Headache Disorders gives useful descriptions and diagnostic criteria that are especially useful for primary headaches. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Clinical Guideline 150 provides evidence-based recommendations on treatments for adults and young people from age 12 years. However, the same principles can be applied to younger children when a specific diagnosis can be made. Key recommendations from the NICE Quality Standards include, establishing a precise diagnosis if possible, avoiding, diagnosing and treating medication overuse headache, and combining a triptan with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug or paracetamol as the first-line acute/rescue treatment for migraine with or without aura. Although rare in children and young people, it is important to diagnose new daily persistent headache, as it responds poorly or not at all to medication; and paroxysmal hemicrania as it responds very well to indomethacin but not to other commonly used analgesics. When faced with difficulties in reaching a precise diagnosis or in finding effective therapies, further advice should be sought from a children's headache clinic or specialist.

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