New research shows going back to school can trigger headaches

FILE - In this Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015, file photo, Tori Smith, center, director of the Southwest Branch of the Boys and Girls Club in Wichita Falls, Texas, and employees of Academy Sports and Outdoors help several club members pick out new backpacks for school. To get the best back-to-school deals, experts say it's all in the timing. (Torin Halsey/Wichita Falls Times Record News via AP, File)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WISH) — Going back to school can be a real headache. Researchers say they found the number of kids seeing the doctor with headaches actually spikes in the fall.

New research says that the added stress of school along with a big schedule change may be behind this spike in headaches for students.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital physicians out of Columbus, Ohio took a look at 1,300 emergency room visits. What they found was that over time they noticed there was an spike in 5 to 18-year-olds visiting the emergency room in the fall.

In the study it mentions that the two most common types of headaches they treat are caused by tension and migraines.

“Migraines tend to be a little more frequent in boys up to about 12 or 13, but as puberty hits, girls seem to have a lot more migraines and it’s related to the change in hormones,” said Dr. Howard Jacobs, Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Doctors attribute the spike in headaches to academic stressors, schedule changes and an increase in extracurricular activity. Other common triggers can be things like lack of sleep, skipping meals, too much caffeine, not enough water and lack of exercise.

“It’s exhausting in that you just want to lay down and not be bothered by anyone,” said student Adria Houghtby.

Doctors recommend eating three meals a day, getting good sleep without napping, drinking a lot of water and trying to remove stress factors.

They say acetaminophen and ibuprofen can also be helpful.

The physicians behind this study say if the headaches are interfering with a child’s normal routine, it’s time to get checked out. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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