Preparation tips for parents on back to school headaches

It’s back to school time again. Parents know this time of year all too well. There are school clothes and supplies to be purchased, class and bus schedules to review, and seemingly countless other details to deal with.
For children who get headaches, this time of year means anxiety, stress, and chronic head pain. The research conducted by the World Health Organization has shown that 80 % of headaches are caused by muscle tension, which is triggered by stress.

“In order to start the school year off right, you need to have a headache strategy” says Dr Elliot Shevel, South Africa’s pioneer in the field of migraine surgery and the medical director of The Headache Clinic. He advises parents to take note of the following:

Install a blue light filter on devices
If your child uses a computer, tablet or mobile phone for many of their school activities and leisure, installing a blue light filter on each device is recommended to reduce muscle stress of the eyes which contributes to headaches and migraines. Blue light filters also block out the light that contributes to insomnia and poor sleeping. Lack of sleep is also a trigger for headaches and migraines so every member of the family should have blue light filters on their devices too.

Choosing the correct backpack/ posture related headache
Choosing a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and padded back. Pack light and organize the backpack to use all of its compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back. The backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of your child’s body weight. Always use both shoulder straps as slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles and lead to muscle tension headache. Consider a rolling backpack; this type of backpack may be a good choice for students who must tote a heavy load. Remember that rolling backpacks still must be carried up stairs.

Nutritional lunch boxes/ dietary related headache
Nutritious home packed lunches start in the supermarket; use the nutritional facts label to help choose healthy foods. Compare nutrient levels for similar foods. Select those lower in fat, sodium and sugar. Dietary headache is a common affliction. These are usually triggered by foods that assist with energy such as chocolate. Instead of giving your child a chocolate as a sweet treat rather include a fruit. Fruits make a sweet and nutritious contribution to lunch. They are generally rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber and water. Take note of which foods trigger headaches for your child by keeping a diary and avoid these foods. A Dietary Trigger Diary is available on this link free of charge to assist you. Remember to remind your child to eat their lunch as skipping meals is a surefire trigger for headaches. Teach them to eat in moderation and enjoy their meals.

Ponytails, braids, weaves, tight hats or headbands
The scalps of headache sufferers are far more sensitive than people who are not susceptible so be mindful of your child’s hairstyle to ensure that it is not contributing to their headache pain. Pulling hair tight can often cause discomfort but this will be relieved as soon as the pull on the hair is relaxed or released.
Remember to pack a fruit juice/ dehydration headache
Dehydration is a common trigger, adequate intake of fluid throughout the day to prevent headaches. Select 100% fruit juice, not just any soda drinks. Soda drinks contain mostly caffeine and sugar and are low in nutrients. Caffeine has been known to trigger headaches in children and it is also highly addictive. A better choice is 100% fruit juice or water.

First day stress headache
Having your child feel anxious and stressed on the first day is a surefire way to trigger a headache. Remind your child that he/she is not the only student who is a bit uneasy about the first day of school. Teachers also know that students are anxious and will make an effort to make sure everyone feels as comfortable as possible. Point out the positive aspect of school, such as it being fun and them getting a chance to make new friends. If you feel it appropriate, drive your child to school and pick them up after on the first day.

Taking part in sports/ stretching exercises
Parent should encourage their children to take part in physical activities at school as these are not only great fun, but also an important part of playing and learning. It is also vital for healthy growth and development. Persuading those children who don’t enjoy organized sport to take up some other form of everyday physical activity will help them stay healthy. Teach your children the right stretching exercises to stretch the muscles of the head, face, neck and jaw. Stretching should be gentle and soothing, not agonizingly painful. Get your children to stretch their neck and jaw muscles carefully and this will give results. For a free copy of the exercises, contact The Headache Clinic on 011 484 0933. These will help them to stretch the neck and jaw muscles carefully, this will give results.

When to consult a medical professional
If your child’s headache persists, it is imperative that you undergo a multidisciplinary investigation to diagnose the specific factors behind the recurring headache. There are a number of healthier treatment options to medication available right here in South Africa. It is possible to get to the bottom of the problem and resolve the pain permanently without medication so that your child can enjoy the quality of life they deserve. For more information go to alternatively contact The Headache Clinic hotline on 011 484 0933.

Dr. Shevel is South Africa’s pioneer in the field of migraine surgery and the Medical Director and Founder of The Headache Clinic who has published more than thirty scientific studies in national and international medical journals. Dr. Shevel is also the head of the South African Article of The International Headache Society and is a peer reviewer for international and national medical journals and magazines and many more.

The dynamic multi-disciplinary medical team at The Headache Clinic is unique in the world for their accurate and complete diagnose of the underlying causes of headaches. Through constant research and innovation, Dr. Shevel and his team are at the forefront of medical breakthroughs in this field, providing non-drug, permanent treatment to restore the quality of life for headache sufferers from all over the world.

Dr. Shevel is also available for comment.
For more information please contact Kayleen Naidoo on +2711 484 0933 or

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