If you've ever seen your child in pain, you know why most parents are willing to do whatever it takes to help their kids feel better — even following the advice of a random stranger on the internet. A viral trick to cure headaches is making the rounds on Facebook, and experts say it could be worth a try. It requires dipping your child's feet in warm water with an ice pack on their neck, and several people swear by this.
"Both heat and cold have been used as simple and effective pain relievers for centuries," pediatrician Dr. Natasha Burgert tells Romper. "The sensation of pain relies on our nervous system and brain. When we use hot or cold for pain or injury, the sensation of temperature dominates the nerve cells and can 'trick' the brain into focusing on temperature rather than the pain stimulus. The temperature sensation makes the sensation of pain relatively lessened."
According to the post, Facebook user Chanda Allen says that putting her son's feet in warm water and an ice pack on his neck helped relieve the pain from his headache in about five minutes. Once her son felt better, he asked her to post his photo and the trick online to help others. (Let's hear your collective 'aww' for this kiddo's kind heart.)
Plenty of Facebook users agreed with the efficacy of this headache cure in the comments of the post, while others simply thanked Allen for the information. Some people mentioned tricks of their own, from a brown paper bag soaked in vinegar and placed on the forehead to various essential oils. It seems many headache sufferers are willing to try just about anything to get rid of the pain. As with any medical advice though, getting an expert to weigh in on the merits of home remedies is key.
Dr. Charisse Litchman, neurologist and American Headache Society fellow, tells Romper that in addition to distracting from pain, the ice packs and warm water can also impact the size of a person's blood vessels. However, she notes that "there is no data to suggest that changes in the size of your blood vessels can help mitigate headaches and migraines. In fact, the theory that blood vessel changes in your head can cause headaches has largely fallen out of favor in the scientific community."
The reasons for headaches are numerous. They can strike at anytime, often without warning in adults and kids alike. "Common causes of headaches in children include too much screen time, poor sleep, irregular meals, dehydration, abnormal vision, stress, and illness," Dr. Sarah Schaffer DeRoo, a pediatrician with Children's National Hospital tells Romper.
So, should you try this trick on your kids the next time they have a headache? It could definitely work, but that all depends on how severe their pain is and why they have a headache to begin with.
"Relaxation techniques and comfort measures to address neck pain and light sensitivity can help reduce the severity of headaches, which can include lying quietly in a dark room, as well as putting an ice pack on your neck or putting your feet with warm water," Litchman explains. "These actions can be especially helpful techniques for people who experience mild headaches. For those who experience more severe and frequent headaches and migraines, these techniques can be combined with medication to alleviate pain."
Honestly, seeing a child deal with headache pain is just the worst, so if at-home treatment isn't helping, it may be necessary to visit their pediatrician. "If your child frequently suffers from headaches, headaches are associated with confusion, vomiting, or vision changes, or headaches are not able to be calmed down with pain control efforts, it's time to see the doctor," Burgert tells Romper.
Sarah Schaffer DeRoo, MD pediatrician at Children's National Hospital
Natasha Burgert, MD, FAAP, pediatrician in South Overland Park, KS