Back to school can mean headaches for students

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Some kids consider going back to school a real pain, but for some, it is a real pain.

A lot of kids complain that going back to school is a real headache.

For some that's literally the case. In fact, a new study finds this is the worst time of the year for headaches in kids.

Getting back into the routine of going to school can be a painful process for Adria Houghtby. She's used to dealing with regular headaches, but the start of school last fall triggered a migraine so bad she missed 10 straight days.

"I had a lot of catch up homework to do and a lot of tests to make up," Houghtby said. "And that just added to the stress."

And a new study shows Adria is not alone.

"Stress is really a significant player with children and teen's headaches," said Dr. Ann Pakalnis. "Parents report that all the time, we see that all the time and school is the biggest stressor."

Pakalnis is a neurologist at one of the largest pediatric hospitals in the nation.

She tracked cases for the last five years at Nationwide Children's Hospital and found that emergency department visits for headaches stayed about the same most of the year.

But it jumped more than 31 percent in the fall.

And experts say it all starts with bedtime and breakfast routines.

"They don't get their sleep and then they're in a rush to go eat breakfast," Pakalnis said. "And they don't get their nutrition. Those are all things that can play into causing headaches."

Their advice? Make sure kids get 10 hours of sleep, eat breakfast, and stay hydrated but avoid caffeine and sports drinks.

And if headaches interfere with life more than once a week, see a doctor.

"If they can't go to school or they're saying, 'I don't want to go out and play, my head hurts too much.' that's a sign that this is more than they're making it up. There’s something significant happening."

Headaches are more common in younger boys, but during puberty that changes and girls get them more often. Doctors say if your child is prone to these headaches to cut down on their stress limit their screen time and cut back on extracurricular activities.