This study reports the pain sensitivity of children with headache and their family members, as well as the prevalence of recurring aches, psychosocial life, and family environment of children with headache at preschool age.
A representative population-based sample of 1443 families expecting their first child were followed over 7 years. A screening questionnaire relating to the child's headache was sent to parents of a representative sample of 1132 6-year-old children. Of 144 children suffering from headache, 106 (76%) were examined and interviewed clinically. Ninety-six children with primary headache (58 migraine and 38 tension-type headache children) and matched controls (n = 96) were included in further examinations.
Children with headache were more often extremely sensitive to pain according to their parents, were more excited about physical examinations, cried more often during blood sampling or vaccination, avoided play or games more often because they were afraid of hurting themselves, and had recurring abdominal and growing pains more often than did control children. The fathers of children with headache were more often extremely sensitive to pain. Children with headache reacted with somatic symptoms, usually with pain and functional intestinal disorders in stress situations, felt more tired, and had more ideations of death during the previous month. They had also had more problems in day care and fewer hobbies such as scout or club meetings than did control children.
More mothers of tension-type headache children than those of migraine children reported that they were considerably sensitive to pain. Tension-type headache children also had a poorer family environment; the family atmosphere was more often unhappy and the relationship between the parents was more often distant than in the families of children with migraines.
In addition to somatic factors, it is important to consider the child's pain sensitivity, reaction to various stress situations, and family functioning when studying childhood headache. The child's coping mechanisms can be supported by information given by the parents. School entry can be considered a suitable period for careful investigation into possible occurrence of headache and also for giving information about headache and its management.