Headache: What Do Children and Mothers Expect From Pediatricians?


  • Conflict of Interest: None

V. Raieli, Hospital Ingrassia – Child Neuropsychiatry Department, via Gaetano La Loggia n.3, Palermo 90129, Italy.


(Headache 2010;50:290-300)

Background.— Headache is a frequent occurrence among children and adolescents, and one of the most common causes of medical consultation. While serious conditions presenting headache as the chief complaint are not common in the pediatric population, enormous sums are invested to perform very expensive and often unnecessary diagnostic investigations. Pediatricians should adopt a flexible and diversified diagnostic/therapeutic approach and, at the same time, should not forget to take into consideration the demands, expectations, and worries of children and their parents.

Objective.— The aim of this study was to assess simultaneously children's and mothers' expectations from the pediatric consultation concerning headache, and pediatricians' opinions about said expectations. In addition, we attempted to investigate mothers', children's, and pediatricians' opinions about symptomatic and prophylactic treatment of headache.

Method.— A total of 100 young headache sufferers, 50 were male and 50 were female, from 10 to 16 years of age, were enrolled in this study. Two diversified, self-administered, ad hoc questionnaires about their expectations from the pediatric treatment of headache and about symptomatic and prophylactic treatment were delivered to each patient and their mother, to which they responded separately. A third self-administered questionnaire was delivered to a sample of 50 pediatricians.

Results.— Our study showed that children and their mothers sometimes have different expectations about the consultation of the pediatrician and of the headache specialist. Frequency of pain was the main reason for pediatric consultation for 70% of mothers, whereas only 2% of them (as opposed to what pediatricians believed) consulted the pediatrician because they were worried about a tumor. Moreover, a high percentage of children and mothers expected from the pediatric consultation to be reassured that it is not a serious illness and to find out the causes of headache (60% and 47%, and 45% and 62%, respectively). A total of 26% of children wanted to know the progression of headache in the future, but only 3% of mothers shared the same demand. With regard to their expectations, pediatricians agree only in part with children and their mothers. On the contrary, the majority of children (68%), mothers (49%), and pediatricians (90%) agree that a symptomatic treatment was necessary in the presence of a severe pain. In addition, 61% of children, 37% of mothers, and 74% of pediatricians believed that a prophylactic treatment was necessary when the pain is severe and long-lasting.

Conclusion.— Pediatricians sometimes do not consider sufficiently children's and mothers' wishes and expectations and, consequently, could limit the outcome of their diagnostic-therapeutic approach. This is particularly important because, in the developmental age, an accurate recognition of patients' and parents' expectations represents an essential requirement for a favorable outcome of the consultation.