Parents used to tell their children that "kids don't get headaches". Nowadays, of course, we know that kids do get headaches. In fact, we know that the lives of children can be incredibly stressful and that stress-related headaches are not uncommon among children of nearly all ages. However, we might have begun to err too much on the side of not worrying about our kids' headaches, attributing them to stress when they may be caused by something much more serious. Speaking about responses to his new book, How Doctors Think, Dr. Jerome Groopman recently said that one of the biggest things he's seen is parents whose children have had headaches misdiagnosed as caused by stress. In reality, these headaches were caused by tumors. He writes:
"I had three stories sent to me about kids whose headaches that went on for months were attributed to stress. Everything in the society now is stress. And they of course turned out to have brain tumors. Most kids with headaches don't have brain tumors. But when the headache is lasting five or six months, to keep hammering on stress and tell the parents it's not worth getting a brain scan is a mistake."
Headaches are a somewhat mysterious medical thing, commonly experienced by a range of people. Even kids get headaches. But they shouldn't be taken lightly. If headaches in children persist over time, the cause could be something as serious as a tumor. A brain scan may be in order to err on the side of caution.