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Child and Adolescent Headache Center

Severe or frequent headaches in children interfere with school, family, and social, relationships. Pediatric headache disorders can be difficult to diagnose and treat, especially in younger children, but proper diagnosis is critical to successful treatment. At UCSF Child and Adolescent Headache Program, experts dedicated to the treatment of childhood headache work closely with you and your child's primary care doctor to develop a long-term, effective treatment plan.

How to Refer a Patient

To refer a patient to the Headache Program:

  • Phone: (415) 502-1914
  • Fax: (415) 353-2400

Children may be seen at any of our locations in Pleasanton or San Francisco.

Locations

Pleasanton

5924 Stoneridge Dr., Suite 100
Pleasanton, CA 94588
Phone: (415) 502-1914

San Francisco

Ron Conway Family Gateway Medical Building
1825 Fourth St., 5th Floor, 5A
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 502-1914

We take all headaches seriously.

  • We specialize in treating pediatric headache only. We are dedicated to children.
  • We know that evaluating and treating headache in children takes time and patience. The specialists at our pediatric-dedicated headache clinic are specially trained to discover the true cause and the best treatment for children experiencing headaches.
  • Our neurologists have fellowship training to prepare for this subspecialty care.
  • We are the only pediatric headache clinic on the West coast.
  • We treat every type of headache, using traditional and newer therapies.
  • We conduct clinical research trials of new therapies and encourage families to enroll their children in appropriate studies.

How is headache treated at the UCSF Headache Center?

At the Headache Center, we tailor care based on many factors, such as:

  • Age
  • Type of headache
  • Severity
  • Symptoms
  • Family preferences

Every child is different. We seek the opinions and preferences of the child and their family and develop a together develop a personalized plan that recognizes the individuality of the child or teen. Finding what works to manage headache in children can be challenging. Applying different medications or combinations is often the best method to determine the most effective plan.

Migraine Management

Migraine management falls into two categories: Prevention (before the onset of a headache); and, Acute (when a headache is active).

Prevention: Before the Headache Begins

  • The goal is to decrease the frequency of headaches.
  • Solutions are often lifestyle changes, such as getting regular sleep, staying hydrated, improving eating habits, or setting an exercise routine.
  • Cognitive behavior therapy is proving to be an effective, evidence-based method that often provides relief.

Acute: When Headache Is Active

  • The goal is to decrease or eliminate pain.
  • Treatment may include prescription medications such as NSAIDs, triptans, anti-nausea drugs, or others.
  • Other options are non-pharmaceutical approaches such as using a neuromodulation device.
  • Supplements such as melatonin or riboflavin (vitamin B2) may also be helpful.

New therapies are under study now and will be introduced as soon as they are available.

Teen Advisory Council

Headache for a teenager can be a cause of isolation and distress. It’s an invisible condition, so teachers often think the teen is “making it up” to get out of doing homework. Sensitivity to light and noise can make it difficult to attend school. Social life is touch-and-go since the onset of a headache can disrupt plans for parties, proms and sleepovers. A group of teens in the San Francisco Bay Area created the Teen Advisory Council, as a way for other teens who have the same condition to connect with each other at the Headache Center at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals.

Some of the activities they organize are:

  • Headache Camp—held several times a year, this all-day event is for parents and teenagers who have chronic headache. It’s held at the UCSF campus and includes talks for parents and teens, as well as fun activities.
  • Informal social get-togethers—picnics and more
  • In-hospital visits—Teen Council members visit other teenagers when they’re hospitalized for headache pain at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals.
  • Miles for Migraine Annual Walk/Run—The Council participates in this annual walk/run to raise funds for research on migraine.

Condition Information

Migraine is the headache that most often brings kids into the doctor’s office. Migraine affects 5 percent of children under the age of 10. As children enter puberty, that rate increases, especially among girls.