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Hope and Health

Your source to help with your family's health from WVU Medicine Children's

Hope & Health
Articles and Updates from WVU Medicine Children's

06/2/2024 | Janelle Heddings, PhD & Cecily Conour, MS

Headache Hygiene 101

Headaches can be a year-round problem for children and adolescents with an estimated 58 percent of children and adolescents experiencing them (Abu-Arafeh et al., 2010). One way to help with headaches is to engage in some different health habits — often referred to as practicing “headache hygiene.”

In the summertime, some of these behaviors become even more important (like drinking water) and some of them become harder (like maintaining a consistent sleep schedule). Here’s what you can do to help keep your child’s headaches in check this summer and beyond:

1) Hydrate. Hydration is very important for managing headaches, and as children spend more time being active outside, the amount of water they need to consume in a day increases too. For a lot of people, 8 cups of water a day (or 64 ounces) may be the right amount. You can figure out how much water your child should be drinking each day by using a water calculator, like the one found here:

If you find your child is having trouble remembering to drink water, try having your child carry a water bottle and set electronic or physical reminders throughout the day to drink if your child needs extra help.

2) Get good sleep. Sleep is also important for managing headaches. Children 6-12 years old need about 9-12 hours of sleep a night, while teenagers need 8-10 hours.

Although it can be more challenging in the summer, it’s important your child keeps a consistent sleep schedule, meaning they go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time every day.

If you child is having trouble falling asleep at night, try improving their sleep hygiene, including making sure they are using your bed only for sleep, avoiding using screens close to bedtime, and ensuring their room is dark and cool.

If your child is lying awake in bed for 30 minutes or more, encourage them to get out of bed and do a boring activity (like reading a book they’ve already read or refolding socks) in a comfy spot until they feel tired, then try falling asleep in bed again (and repeat as necessary).

3) Reduce caffeine intake. Caffeine can be found in lots of different drinks, including sodas, sweet teas, and even some water flavoring packets. When your child has headaches, it’s important to make caffeine consumption a rare treat. Try to reduce caffeine intake to only a couple of times a week or even eliminating it. You could try making decaffeinated sweet tea at home or swap caffeinated sodas out for ones without caffeine, for example.

4) Limit screen time. Limiting screen time during the summer may be difficult, especially on those rainy days. However, excessive screen time (i.e., 14-21 hours per week) may be associated with more headaches (Nills et al., 2024).

To help your child engage in other activities that don’t involve screens, establish family rules for how much screen time is allowed, as well as screen-free times during the day (such as no screens when eating). Children can also earn screen time as a reward for completing daily chores or for good behavior.

Using parental controls on electronic devices can help to minimize screen time if needed. Make other activities available to replace screen time during the summer and remember to model good screen time behavior for your children.

5) Eat well. While good nutrition is important for all children, regularly eating nutritious meals is especially important to prevent and manage headaches in children. In fact, skipping meals such as breakfast may be a risk factor for recurrent headaches (Walter, 2014). During the summer months, meals may be skipped due to summer activities and play.

To help your child eat consistently during the summer, develop a daily schedule or routine and encourage children to set alarms to remind them of mealtimes. Eating meals together as a family is another great strategy to ensure children are eating three meals a day.

6) Practice good stress management. Although headaches may become less frequent during the summer without the stress of school, summer can be a great time to learn and practice stress management techniques.

Stress and headaches go together, in that more stress can lead to more headaches, and headaches can cause a child to feel more stressed. Learning to manage stress effectively is one way to help prevent headaches or recover more quickly from a headache. Stress management can include things such as engaging in a distracting activity, going for a walk, taking deep breaths, or practicing meditation.

Parents can model effective stress management for their children, as well as partake in stress management with their child. Developing healthy coping routines can be one way to incorporate stress management over the summer, such as taking a daily walk as a family or scheduling daily quiet time where your child engages in relaxation. There are lots of apps and websites available to help assist your child with learning stress management.

And of course, if your child is struggling to cope with stress, a referral to a child psychologist or therapist could be beneficial. WVU Medicine’s Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry can help with stress management or mental health concerns if needed.

Additional Resources

If your child is struggling with frequent recurrent headaches, reach out to their pediatrician. They may recommend an evaluation by a child neurologist. The WVU Medicine Children’s Neurology Department is equipped to evaluate and provide treatment for your child’s headaches.


Abu-Arafeh, I., Razak, S., Sivaraman, B., & Graham, C. (2010). Prevalence of headache and migraine in children and adolescents: A systematic review of population-based studies: Review. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 52(12), 1088–1097.

Nilles, C., Williams, J.V., Patten, S.B., Pringsheim, T.M., & Orr, S.L. (2024). Lifestyle factors associated with frequent recurrent headaches in children and adolescents: A Canadian population-based study. Neurology, 102(6), e209160. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000209160

Walter, S. (2014). Lifestyle behaviors and illness-related factors as predictors of recurrent headache in U.S. adolescents. Journal of Neuroscience Nursing, 46(6), 337-350. doi:10.1097/JNN.0000000000000095

About the Author

Janelle Heddings, PhD

Janelle Heddings, PhD, is a pediatric psychologist and associate professor in the Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry at the WVU School of Medicine. Dr. Heddings provides clinical care to patients in several outpatient multidisciplinary clinics at WVU Medicine Children’s. She also provides outpatient therapy for youth with medical and mental health concerns at Healthy Minds Chestnut Ridge. Dr. Heddings has clinical and research interests with a variety of pediatric populations, including chronic pain, functional neurological disorder, diabetes, and cystic fibrosis.

Cecily Conour, MS

Cecily Conour, MS, is clinical psychology doctoral student at West Virginia University and the current psychology extern in the Pediatric Neurology clinic. Her research interests include the transition to adult healthcare for adolescents with chronic pain and emerging adults’ self-management of chronic pain. Clinically, Cecily is interested in promoting self-management of painful conditions for youth.

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