Providers working to treat children with ‘long COVID-19’ headaches

Headaches are a common symptom of “long COVID-19,” an illness marked by symptoms that linger for months after a COVID-19 infection.

Providers are seeing more patients complain of headaches during the pandemic, and headaches are a common symptom of “long COVID-19,” an illness marked by COVID-19 symptoms that linger for months after an infection.

Many children who become infected with the COVID-19 virus typically recover within a week, and most cases are not severe. However, some children who experienced mild or asymptomatic cases may continue to experience various neurological symptoms, such as headaches, brain fog, fatigue, insomnia and dizziness.

Impacts of stress on long COVID-19 headaches

Norton Children’s Neuroscience Institute

Our team of pediatric neurologists manage treatment and care for children with persistent headaches, including post-COVID-19 conditions.

It’s possible that previous COVID-19 infections have led to an increase in the number of patients with headaches, in addition to the overall stress of living in a COVID-19 world, according to Elizabeth S. Doll, M.D., pediatric neurologist with Norton Children’s Neuroscience Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. 

“Stress is the No. 1 trigger for migraine in adults, and the same is probably true in pediatric patients,” Dr. Doll said. “COVID-19 has been a major stressor, and anecdotally, I have seen exacerbation of headaches and migraine related to this.”

Initially, or during the acute phase of infection, the virus can cause headaches that resemble migraine or tension headaches. Some patients don’t fully recover and may experience persistent daily headaches.

Who’s at risk?

While long COVID-19 headaches may appear in any patient, symptoms can be worse among those with preexisting migraine or other neurological conditions.

“COVID-19 by itself either can exacerbate underlying migraine tendency or potentially trigger headaches in some vulnerable patients,” Dr. Doll said.

Providers are continuing to work to identify specific treatments for post-COVID-19 symptoms and conditions, including long COVID-19 headaches.

Support for patients

Norton Children’s Infectious Diseases COVID-19 Follow-up Clinic offers treatment for pediatric patients who still have symptoms of COVID-19, even after testing negative for the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also is conducting studies to investigate post-COVID-19 conditions.The CDC also is working to identify how common post-COVID-19 conditions are, who is most likely to get them, and why some symptoms eventually improve for some patients and not others.