I’m 13 years old and recently I’ve been getting headaches about halfway through the day. They’re not unbearable, but definitely annoying! My friend told me to get my eyes checked, but I don’t get it. Why should I get my eyes checked when it’s my head that hurts?

Great question! Headaches can be a big pain, especially in the middle of the school day when you’re just trying to concentrate. It sounds like it’s worth checking in with your healthcare provider. Your headaches are probably nothing to be worried about, but a medical professional can do some simple tests to make sure nothing more serious is going on.

As for your friend’s advice, it’s actually spot on! One of the most common reasons for headaches like yours is an eyesight problem. Being near- or far-sighted is very common. If your eyes are straining to focus, it creates tension that can lead to headaches like yours. It might be time to get glasses or contacts, or get your prescription updated if you already wear them. Pay attention to tension in your face throughout the day. Are you squinting, even a little bit, or having trouble reading what’s written on the board or in your textbooks?

Even if you think your vision is fine, it’s still worth getting your eyes checked out by a medical professional.  Sometimes your eyes are straining to see without you even noticing. And even if you don’t have eye problems, you should still get an eye exam every  year. You can make an appointment with an eye specialist, or with your normal pediatrician or family medicine doctor. While they’ll refer you to an eye specialist if you have eye problems, they can still do an eye test to tell you if you’ll probably need glasses or contact lenses.

There are, of course, lots of other reasons you could be getting headaches. If you spend a lot of time looking at a phone or computer screen, start taking short breaks to give your eyes a rest. When you read, make sure you have lots of light so your eyes aren’t strained. Dehydration (or not having enough water) can also cause headaches, so drink at least 8 glasses of water a day to stay hydrated.

In the meantime, you can try an over-the-counter painkiller like Tylenol to deal with the pain. Be sure to follow the instructions on the bottle. Some people also find low levels of caffeine can help, so drink some unsweetened tea or go for a painkiller with caffeine, like Excedrin.

If you live in the NYC area, you can get a free appointment with an optometrist or an adolescent health specialist at Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center. And if you do end up needing glasses, we’ll give you a free pair!