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HEALTH: New school year can bring stress, headaches for children
Students stress

COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton County schools have welcomed back students to their virtual classrooms, and with this new way of learning comes added stress which can lead children to experience headaches.

The National Headache Foundation estimates that 20 percent of children in the U.S. ages 5 to 17 experience headaches. Of the approximate 10.3 million U.S. children prone to headaches, about 15 percent experience tension headaches while five percent are dealing with migraine disease.

Anna Bunker, M.D., a pediatric neurologist practicing at Piedmont Newton Hospital, treats children and adolescents suffering from headache conditions and says it is important to determine the cause and type of headache.

“Many childhood headaches are multifactorial, and may be due to stress, a family history of headache, anxiety, sleep issues, or other reasons,” said Dr. Bunker. “However, even young children can experience migraine headaches.”

While most headaches can be relieved with over-the-counter pain medications and relaxation therapies, Dr. Bunker encourages parents to contact their child’s doctor if your child is experiencing stiff neck, fever, vomiting, shortness of breath, muscle weakness, double vision, or change in consciousness. You should also speak with your child’s doctor if your child experiences a headache following a head injury or if they are experiencing recurring headaches.

“A very small percentage, probably less than five percent, of childhood headaches are caused by disease or physical problems,” said Dr. Bunker. “Still, if your child is experience recurring headaches or severe headache pain with associated symptoms, you should speak with your child’s doctor to rule out a more serious condition.” 

To diagnose your child’s type of headache, Dr. Bunker said she asks a series of questions to see if she can determine what may be causing the headaches.

“I will ask when the headaches happen, what they feel like and where they hurt,” said Dr. Bunker. “I’ll ask about stress and diet, as well as how they are sleeping. I also ask the parents or the patient to start keeping a headache diary to track when headaches happen and how long they last. This can help us determine if anything helped to make the headache happen.”

If your child says they have a headache, they should be taken seriously. To help ease your child’s pain, help them to relax, make sure they have something to eat and drink, and let them lie down in a cool, dark room with a cool, moist cloth across the forehead.

If your child’s headaches become for frequent or severe, speak to your child’s doctor about ways to help decrease the number of headache days your child is experiencing.

To learn more about Dr. Bunker, call 706-353-0606 or visit