How do I keep a headache diary?
A "headache diary" is a written record of your child's headaches: when they occur, what makes them better and worse, etc. On your calendar, write down the following details:
- The date and time the headache started and stopped
- What the pain is like (throbbing, stabbing, aching)
- Where the pain is (left side, forehead, etc.)
- How bad the pain is on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = barely there, 10 = worst headache ever)
- Other symptoms before or during the headache (vomiting, blurry vision, etc.)
- Diet and activities that day: stressful exam, skipped lunch, etc., new medicine, sleep the night before, food/drinks consumed, uncommon events or stressors (positive or negative). Once you identify triggers you can recognize them and try to avoid them.
- Impact on your normal routine or activities by the headache
- Menstrual cycle (for girls)
- Treatment: list any medicines taken to help the headache as well as any other activity that helps such as lying in a dark room. Record if these measures were effective or not.
Why are these details so important? It seems like a pain to keep up with.
We can do a lot more for the headaches if we know the details surrounding them. People tend to forget details if they aren't written down. On the other hand, once you keep a written record, you might be amazed at the discoveries you make about the pattern, frequency, and triggers of your child's headaches.
A two-month headache diary is essential to see if medications are making a difference in the frequency and severity of headaches. Unless you specifically try to keep track of how often headaches occur, you may not notice small differences or improvements in the headaches.
For example, a child may be put on medication that successfully decreases the headaches from 10 headaches a month to 6 headaches a month. 10 headaches a month may seem like "a lot," and 6 headaches a month may seem like "a lot." However, going from 10 to 6 is almost a 50% improvement. We might not recognize the improvement unless a careful record is kept