Chronic Daily Headache in Children and Adolescents


  • Natalie J. Wiendels MD,

  • Martine C. M. Van Der Geest MD,

  • Arie Knuistingh Neven, MSc MD, PhD,

  • Michel D. Ferrari MD, PhD,

  • Laura A. E. M. Laan MD, PhD

  • From the Leiden University Medical Center, Neurology, Leiden, The Netherlands (Wiendels, van der Geest, Ferrari, and Laan) and Leiden University Medical Center, General Practice and Nursing Home Medicine, Leiden, The Netherlands (Wiendels and Knuistingh Neven).

Address all correspondence to Laura A. E. M. Laan, Department of Neurology, Leiden University Medical Center, P.O. Box 9600, 2300 RC Leiden, The Netherlands.


Objective.—To describe the clinical features of children with chronic daily headache (CDH) and examine the usefulness of the International Classification of Headache Disorders-II.

Background.—Few data are available on chronic daily headache and analgesic overuse in children and adolescents and there are no specific criteria for headache in children.

Methods.—We retrospectively reviewed all charts of 79 children and adolescents (<16 years) with headache on ≥15 days/month presenting to the outpatient clinic of the Department of Neurology of the Leiden University Medical Center between 1994 and 2001. We classified their headaches according to the International Classification of Headache Disorders-II.

Results.—Fifty-seven (72%) children had chronic daily headache for more than 6 months, with a duration of more than 4 hours a day in 60% of them. Quality, severity, and location of pain varied. Sixty patients (76%) used analgesics, 10 patients more than one type. Thirteen patients (16%) used analgesics daily. In one-third of patients, headache led to frequent school absenteeism and sleeping problems. Twenty-eight (35%) patients could be classified, 17 patients (22%) as chronic tension-type headache, 5 patients (6%) as chronic migraine, and 6 patients (8%) as probable medication overuse headache. Fifteen patients (19%) did not fit into any category and 36 (46%) could not be classified due to insufficient data.

Conclusions.—Chronic daily headache in children is a serious disorder. A relatively large number of patients overuse medication and it leads to frequent school absenteeism and sleeping problems. It remains difficult to classify their headaches with the new criteria for headache disorders.