Pediatrics: Every second child suffers from headaches

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Pediatrics: Every second child suffers from headaches
Pediatrics: Every second child suffers from headaches

Every second child suffers from headaches

According to a recent study by the University of Göttingen, every second child between the ages of seven and fourteen has suffered from headaches in the past six months. About 6.5 percent of all children have headaches once a week or more frequently. This could not confirm dramatic figures from other studies, says Birgit Kröner-Herwig from the Georg Elias Müller Institute for Psychology, which is conducting the study together with Marion Heinrich and Lisette Morris.

For the study, the scientists used detailed questionnaires in two survey rounds to around 8,800 families with children in Lower Saxony, of which more than 60 percent responded. In addition to the distribution of headaches, the purpose of the survey was to determine which factors promote the occurrence of headaches. The questionnaires contained questions about the symptoms of the pain, about other he alth problems affecting the children and the family, and about possible risk factors such as depression. A third round of the survey is to follow from October to December 2005.

According to the results of the Göttingen study, the first headache attack occurs on average in the eighth year of life, earlier in boys than in girls. Overall, girls have headaches more often, especially from the age of twelve: 13 percent of all 13- to 14-year-old girls complain about weekly headaches, but only six percent of boys of the same age. According to their parents, more than half of all children surveyed had had a headache at least once within the last six months. The number of affected children increases steadily with age, as does the number of those who regularly have headaches.

According to Kröner-Herwig, family socioeconomic status showed no significant relationship to headache occurrence. A significant, if not overweight, factor is living in a single-parent household.

As the scientist further explains, around 7.5 percent of children are affected by migraines. This is the type of headache that is most debilitating. A seizure is rated as very painful on a scale of zero to ten with an average rating of six. According to Kröner-Herwig, migraines lead to absenteeism and considerable impairment at school. According to the psychologist, there is a close connection between headache and other types of pain such as abdominal and back pain, so that one can speak of a special sensitivity to pain.

Other he alth problems are also associated with the occurrence of headaches. School stress and critical life events are other possible stress factors that promote the occurrence of headaches. © Georg-August University of Göttingen

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