Get access

Swedish school nurses’ view of school health care utilization, causes and management of recurrent headaches among school children


Bo Larsson, Professor, Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, NTNU, N-7489 Trondheim, Norway.


The present survey was addressed to a representative, nationwide sample of Swedish school nurses and 174 (69%) responded. They were asked about their views on: (i) the most usual problems for students that prompt attendance at school nurses’ offices; (ii) the causes and management of school children's headaches and (iii) the school nurses’ own education with respect to headaches. Headaches were reported to be one of the most common problems among adolescents visiting the school nurses’ offices and tension-type headaches were regarded as a more serious school health problem, compared with migraine. Various stressors such as family and peer problems were regarded as important causes of recurrent headaches. In addition, the school nurses mentioned too little physical activity, sleep problems and poor eating habits as related factors, in particular among students with tension-type headaches. Common management approaches used by the school nurses were to provide information about headaches or supportive discussion, recommend follow-up visits, perform vision tests and refer students to a school physician. About one-fifth to one-third of the school nurses often gave analgesic medication to students because of headaches, most commonly used were paracetamol followed by various NSAIDs. Most of the school nurses regarded relaxation training as an ‘‘effective or very effective’’ treatment for both migraine and tension-type headaches, whereas palliative and prophylactic drug treatments were seen as more effective for migraine. It is suggested that school nurses, who often provide the first line of treatment for school children and adolescents with recurrent headaches, also should administer a cost-effective treatment such as relaxation training in school settings, where many of the headache episodes occur. However, school nurses also need to be properly trained to ensure quality in delivering such treatment approaches.