Migraine is not just a bad headache. It is a neurological disease, with head pain and associated symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sensitivity to touch, sound, light, and odors, abdominal pain, and mood changes. While children generally have fewer and shorter migraine attacks than adult sufferers, childhood migraine can be just as disabling, and it can seriously affect the child’s quality of life. A doctor should be consulted if a child suffers from frequent or disabling headaches or migraine symptoms.
Get Diagnosis and Treatment
If your child is experiencing frequent headaches, have him/her be seen by healthcare professional (a migraine specialist, if possible) to determine if the diagnosis is migraine, the severity and frequency of the attacks, and which treatment approaches are best. Types of treatments:
- Acute treatment uses drugs to relieve the symptoms when they occur.
- Preemptive treatment is used when your child's migraine is triggered by a known activity such as exercise or specific foods.
- Preventive treatment uses drugs taken daily to reduce the number of attacks and lessen the intensity of the pain. If a child has three or four disabling headaches a month, the doctor should consider using preventive medication, which includes certain anticonvulsants, antidepressants, antihistamines, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and NSAIDs. Sometimes herbals and supplements, such as butterbur, magnesium, riboflavin, CoQ10, and feverfew, are recommended.
- Complementary treatment does not use drugs and includes relaxation techniques (biofeedback, imagery, hypnosis, etc.), cognitive-behavioral therapy, acupuncture, exercise, and proper rest and diet to help avoid attack triggers. For some children, eating a balanced diet without skipping meals, getting regular exercise, and rising and going to bed at the same time every day help reduce migraine frequency and severity.
Take Your Medications
Some young people need to be reminded to take their medication. Make sure you understand from your doctor how and when the medication should be taken and take a pro-active role in being sure your child takes the medication as prescribed. If your child's migraine attacks change (become more frequent or more severe, for instance) be sure to tell your doctor, since a new treatment approach may be needed.
Live a Healthy Lifestyle
Your child's migraine attacks can be brought on by many factors, big and small -- not getting enough sleep (or getting too much), stressing out about life events like a big test, family troubles, illness or death of a loved one and even outside events like natural disasters and acts of terrorism. Try to stay alert to events in your child's life and help guide him or her to maintain healthy habits.
In addition to life events that can throw your child off track and bring on a migraine, new research in stress management (also called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT) shows it has significant value in helping youngsters with chronic headache. Relaxation techniques, biofeedback and other stress management tools may reduce the severity of migraine attacks and related disability. Although young people (and their parents) may resist this approach, evidence is mounting that it's well worth trying when migraines are debilitating.
Keep a Migraine Diary
Many people with migraine find that keeping a diary is a great tool for understanding why they get migraines and how to prevent them. With diary entries, they can track when they have an attack, how long it lasts, what they were doing before and during the attack, what foods they ate, and how bad their headache was. Mobile phone apps may have more appeal for your youngster and may actually help kids comply better with medication regimens and track their migraines more closely. New apps are being developed every day and you can check out some of the best.
What to Keep in Mind:
- Migraine is very common in children - about 10% of school-age children suffer.
- Half of all migraine sufferers have their first attack before the age of 12. Even infants can have migraines. Migraine has been reported in children as young as 18 months.
- Before puberty, boys suffer from migraine more often than girls. The mean age of onset for boys is 7, and for girls it is 11. As adolescence approaches, the incidence increases more rapidly in girls than in boys. This may be explained by changing estrogen levels.
- By the time they turn 17, as many as 8 percent of boys and 23 percent of girls have experienced a migraine.
- The prognosis for children with migraine is variable. However, 60% of sufferers who had adolescent-onset migraine report ongoing migraines after age 30. The prognosis for boys tends to be better than for girls.
Sources: migraineresearchfoundation.org./ medical-news.net