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Headaches in children

Headaches are very common in children. Most children who have a headache will not have a brain tumour.

Children who have a headache caused by a brain tumour are likely to be experiencing other symptoms, so you should look out for these carefully.

When might a headache be a symptom of a brain tumour in a child?

Brain tumour headaches are are caused by a build up of pressure in the brain. This could be due to the tumour pressing on blood vessels and nerves within the brain or blocking the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within the brain.

Headaches are a common symptom of brain tumours but will usually be accompanied by other symptoms.

Signs to look out for:

  • your child has a persistent headache which occurs regularly
  • your child is experiencing other symptoms, such as vomiting
  • the headaches are waking your child up while sleeping
  • the headaches frequently occur when your child wakes up
  • your child become tired, confused or less alert when they have the headache
  • sometimes it may be difficult for young children to explain how they are feeling. You may notice visual signs such as your child holding their head or neck.

If you are concerned about your child it is important to get them checked out by your GP or optician.

I think my child has a brain tumour, what should I do?

Brain tumours are rare, however, if you’re worried and a symptom such as a headache persists or if your child has more than one symptom of a brain tumour then:

  • Talk to your doctor
    GP appointments are usually quite short, so make sure you find out how to best prepare for your child’s appointment.
  • Get an eye test
    If your child’s symptoms are limited to changes in vision and/or headaches, get their eyes tested by an optician before seeing your GP.
  • Go to A&E
    If the symptoms are sudden or severe, you should go to your emergency department or call 999.

More information

Download the HeadSmart symptoms card – PDF

Pocket-sized symptoms card that list the common signs and symptoms of childhood brain tumours, which you can take with you to your family GP if you are concerned about your child.

Check the signs and symptoms of a brain tumour

Know the Signs and Symptoms

Although brain tumours are rare, if you or a loved one are experiencing two or more of the signs and symptoms it’s important that you speak to your doctor to rule out a brain tumour.

Share your experiences and help create change

By taking part in our Improving Brain Tumour Care surveys and sharing your experiences, you can help us improve treatment and care for everyone affected by a brain tumour.