Migraine headache in children

By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor

Definition

What is migraine headache in children?

Migraines are severe, throbbing headaches that usually occur on one side of the head, but they can move from side to side or affect both sides. They often occur with nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light, noise, and smells. Changes in vision such as flashing lights or dark spots may happen before the headache. Kids get migraine headaches too.

How common is migraine headache in children?

Headaches aren’t just for adults. About 1 in 5 school-age children and teens are prone to having them, too.  About 5% of children struggle with migraine headaches – some as early as 4 years old. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of migraine headache in children?

The common symptoms of migraine headache in children are:

  • Moderate to severe pain (often described as pounding, throbbing pain) that can affect the whole head, or can shift from one side of the head to the other
  • Sensitivity to light, noise or odors
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea or vomiting, stomach upset, abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sensations of being very warm or cold
  • Paleness
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Fever (rare)
  • Bright flashing dots or lights, blind spots, wavy or jagged lines (aura)

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes migraine headache in children?

Most kids get them because of an illness, infection (like a cold), or a fever. For example, sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses) and infections of the throat or ear can trigger headaches

Migraine headaches are a different story. Doctors don’t know exactly what causes them, but they do know they’re linked to physical and chemical changes in the brain, as well as genes that parents pass to their kids.

About 7 out of 10 kids who have migraine have a mom, dad, or sibling with a history of them. Similar things — like fatigue, bright lights, and changes in weather — might even trigger their attacks.

Other migraine triggers include stress, anxiety, depression, a change in sleep patterns, loud noises, or certain foods. Too much physical activity or too much sun can bring on a migraine in some kids, too. Girls can get them because of hormone changes when they get their periods. This type of headache is called a menstrual migraine.

Common causes of tension headaches include emotional stress, eye strain due to poor vision, and neck or back strain linked to poor posture.

Most headaches are harmless. But if they get worse over time and happen with certain other symptoms, they can be a sign of a more serious problem.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for migraine headache in children?

Migraine headaches often run in families.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is migraine headache in children diagnosed?

Your child’s doctor will examine her and ask questions about the headaches, including the type of pain, how often they happen, and if anything makes them better or worse. You and your child will need to be as specific as possible.

Usually, the doctor can make a diagnosis based on this information. Sometimes, a CT or MRI is needed to give the doctor more information. These imaging tests create detailed pictures of the brain that can show any problem areas that could cause headaches.

Once your doctor determines the specific type of headache your child is having, you can work together to create a treatment plan to help her feel better.

How is migraine headache in children treated?

Your doctor may recommend different headache treatments. The best one for your child will depend on the type of headache she has, how often it happens, what causes it, and her age.

Some of the options your doctor might suggest might include:

  • Tracking symptoms: Create a headache diary to note the things that trigger your child’s headache, like a lack of sleep, not eating at regular times, certain foods or ingredients, caffeine, the environment, or stress. Once you learn what your child’s headache triggers are, you can help her avoid them.
  • Stress management : For both migraine and tension-type headaches, it’s important for you and your child to figure out what causes them. Then you can help her find ways to deal with the things that are stressing her out.
  • Biofeedback: Special sensors attached to the body track how your child responds to headaches. The sensors record changes in breathing, pulse, heart rate, temperature, muscle tension, and brain activity. This helps your child understand how her body physically responds to stressful situations. It can help her learn how to release and control tension that leads to headaches.
  • Massage : When done by a trained professional, along with a healthy diet and regular exercise, massage can help your child relax. It can ease muscle tension that may trigger headaches.
  • Medications: Many of the medicines that treat adult headaches are fine in smaller doses to treat headaches in children and teens. But never give aspirin to a child under age 19. It can cause Reye’s syndrome, a rare but fatal condition in young kids. Your child may need prescription medications to help certain headaches, especially migraine headaches. Some meds treat symptoms when they strike. Others help prevent future headaches.

It can take some time to find a headache treatment that works. Tell your doctor what helps your child and what doesn’t.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage migraine headache in children?

Sleep is the best treatment for a migraine. Sleep restores normal brain function, relieves pain, and resolves many associated migraine symptoms. Doctor-prescribed or recommended pain-relieving drugs should be given to the child migraineur.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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