OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to longitudinally evaluate the epidemiological characteristics of headaches in a school-based, community setting and to determine the impact of headache symptoms on the health of children.METHODS: After institutional review board approval, a prospective cohort study was conducted at two Chicago public schools for a period of 6 months. Members of the research team surveyed both schools weekly for headache and other pain symptoms. The students rated each pain symptom on a 5-point scale from 0 ("not at all") to 4 ("a whole lot"). Demographic information was collected at the time of enrollment, and all participants were asked to complete age-appropriate and validated pediatric surveys to assess the severity of concurrent somatic complaints, anxiety symptoms, functional limitations, and quality of life issues.RESULTS: Of the participating children, 89.5% reported at least one headache during the study period. Females experienced more frequent headaches compared with males (P < 0.05). Children reporting headaches had a significantly increased risk of experiencing other troubling somatic symptoms (P < 0.05). Headache severity showed a moderate correlation with increased feelings of anxiety, functional disability, and a diminished quality of life (P < 0.05).CONCLUSIONS: School-aged children commonly experience headaches. Children experiencing headaches are more likely to report other somatic symptoms, feelings of anxiety, functional limitations, and quality of life impairments.