Common Causes Of Headaches In Teens And How To Avoid Them

Use these simple diet and lifestyle changes to help alleviate headaches in teens.

Common Causes Of Headaches In Teens And How To Avoid Them photo

Why are headaches so common for teenagers and what can you do to prevent them?

Most people will suffer a headache at some point in their lives. These usually resolve quickly and easily on their own, but sometimes they can be severe and extremely debilitating, or be a sign of something more serious. Find out about headaches in teens, what to watch out for and some of the natural ways to relieve them.

What exactly is a headache?

A headache is caused by changes in the nerves, blood vessels and muscles of the head and neck but it’s not associated with the brain. The muscles or blood vessels go through changes where they swell and tighten which stimulates or puts pressure on the surrounding nerves. It is the pain signals sent from these nerves to the brain that cause a headache.

What triggers a headache?

There are many underlying factors which can trigger headaches in teens. Some of these include:

  • Illness – colds, flu, throat or sinus infections, meningitis, allergies, head injury, whiplash
  • Hormonal changes – teenage girls often get headaches at certain times of their monthly cycle
  • Family history of chronic headache or migraines
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Eye strain – poor eyesight, long periods of time in front of a screen
  • Dehydration
  • Loud noise or music
  • Smoking, alcohol and/or caffeine
  • Skipping meals
  • Poor sleep
  • Poor ventilation, environmental toxins and pollutants, exposure to chemicals and strong smells such as perfumes
  • Food sensitivities or intolerances, refined and processed foods
  • Certain medications and over-use of painkillers such as paracetamol or brufen
  • Orthodontic therapy and braces or temporomandibular joint syndrome

Common types of headaches for teens

Headaches can range in severity from a slight dull ache or throbbing through to a extremely sharp pain. They can happen in different areas or all over the head and can last anything from a few minutes very occasionally through to constant, daily chronic headaches lasting for weeks at a time. It’s common for teens to suffer headaches caused by poor posture and eye strain from excessive screen use.

Two of the most common headaches in teenagers are:

Tension headaches

Usually brought about by stress, anxiety or depression, causing a mild to moderate ache or a band-like feeling of pressure over the forehead.


A more severe type of headache that is commonly experienced by teenagers, but less so than a tension headache. Symptoms include a sharp and throbbing pain, sensitivity to light, noise and smells, nausea and vomiting. Migraine sufferers often need to lie down in a quiet, cool and darkened room. Migraines can last between 30 minutes to a few hours, but sometimes last for a few days. Although not life-threatening, migraines can be extremely disabling and can affect quality of life, with teenagers often missing school or other activities as a result.

When to seek help from a doctor

If headaches are becoming a regular nuisance, then visit your doctor who can assess for any underlying factors and advise on treatment options. They may recommend prescription medications which can help relieve symptoms. Other symptoms associated with headaches to watch out for which may need further investigation to rule out anything more serious include:

  • Changes in eyesight such as blurring, double vision or seeing spots
  • Skin rash
  • Neck pain or stiffness
  • Difficulty with balance, weakness or dizziness
  • A feeling of tingling or numbness in any parts of the body
  • Raised temperature

Top tips to relieve headaches in teens

  • Rest and relax – lie down in a cool, dark and quiet room. It can also help to take deep breaths and put a cool, moist cloth over your forehead and eyes.
  • Find ways to manage stress and anxiety – take time out in the fresh air, keep a journal, practice yoga or meditation, deep breathing and find someone you can talk to for support.
  • Eat well – avoid refined, processed and sugary foods, instead opt for a healthy, balanced diet containing a wide variety of different vegetables, fruits, good quality protein and healthy fats to ensure a good supply of essential nutrients. Also, don’t skip meals!
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine and drugs.
  • Sleep well – practice good sleep hygiene by keeping a regular bedtime, switching off electronic devices at least an hour before going to bed and sleeping for around 7-8 hours each night.
  • Keep active – exercise releases endorphins which are the body’s natural painkillers.
  • Take regular breaks from screen time and exercise your eyes to prevent eye strain. Look away from your screen at a distant object at least every 20 minutes. See an optician regularly to check your eyes are healthy.
  • Maintain good posture – don’t slouch, keep your back and shoulders straight when walking or sitting down.

Eating well, getting good sleep, reducing screen time and avoiding stress are natural ways to help relieve headaches for teens. If you’d like to find out more about healthy eating for teens, book a consultation with one of our experts here.

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