Headaches are common in children and teenagers. In fact, more than half of all people will suffer from headaches at some point, and by the age of 18, most teenagers are suffering from headaches. While most headaches are part of a viral illness, some are migraines. In fact, recurring migraines affect one in 10 children and teens.
What should you know and do if you think your child or teen may have migraines?
How long does it take for migraines to begin?
We don’t usually think about migraines in children, but by the age of 10, 1 in 20 children have migraines. Migraines sometimes occur even earlier.
Before puberty, boys and girls are equally likely to develop these disorders. After puberty, migraines are more common in girls.
Which migraine symptoms are most common in children?
Migraines in adults are usually unilateral. In children, they are more likely to be felt on the sides of the head, either in the temples or on the sides of the forehead.
While it’s not always easy to tell the difference between a migraine and another type of headache, children
- Throbbing pain is often reported
- Nausea and sensitivity to light and noise may occur.
The flickering lights and other vision changes that people often see at the onset of a migraine are less common in children. However, parents may notice that their child is more tired, irritable, or pale before a migraine starts, and that it takes some time for them to return to normal after the migraine ends.
What causes migraines in children?
We don’t know the exact cause of migraines. We used to think it had to do with blood flow to the brain, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Migraines appear to be caused by nerves that are more sensitive and responsive to irritation. This stimulus could be stress, fatigue, hunger, almost anything.
Migraines run in families. In fact, most migraine sufferers have someone in their family who also suffers from migraines.
Can migraines be prevented?
The best way to prevent migraines is to identify and avoid triggers. Everyone’s triggers are different, which is why keeping a headache diary is a good idea.
When your child has a headache, write down what happened before the headache, how bad it is, where it is, what helps, and any other pertinent information you can think of. This can help you and your doctor spot patterns that can help you understand your child’s specific triggers.
It’s a good idea to make sure your child gets enough sleep, eats regularly, drinks water regularly, gets exercise, and manages stress. Not only does this help prevent migraines, but it’s also great for your overall health!
How to help your child relieve migraines?
When a migraine attacks, sometimes just lying in a dark, quiet room with a cool cloth on your forehead is enough. If not, ibuprofen or acetaminophen may help; your doctor can tell you the best dose for your child.
It’s important not to give your child these medications for more than 14 days a month, as taking them more frequently may cause the headaches to return and make everything worse!
Are there prescription medications that can help children with migraines?
If these methods aren’t enough, a class of drugs called triptans can help relieve migraines in children ages 6 and older.
If your child has frequent or severe migraines that cause them to miss school or otherwise interfere with their life, doctors will often prescribe medications to prevent them. There are many different types, and your doctor can advise you on what is best for your child.
Some girls experience migraines during menstruation. If this happens frequently, it sometimes helps to take preventive medications before and after your monthly period.
When to contact your doctor
If you think your child may have migraines, you should call and make an appointment. Keep a headache diary with you. Your doctor will ask a series of questions, conduct a physical examination, and make a diagnosis. Together you can make the best plan for your child.
If your child has a severe headache, stiff neck, difficulty with coordination or movement, is unusually sleepy, or talks or acts strangely, you should call your doctor or go to the emergency room right away.
The American Academy of Pediatrics provides additional helpful information about migraines and how to treat and prevent them on its website.