Migraine in Children: Causes, Symptoms, Risks, Treatments

Migraine in Children

People of any age experience migraine headaches, even children experience it. The symptoms of migraine in children are similar to those in adults. This includes severe headache, nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound.

What causes migraine in children is unclear but it is believed that genetics might play a role in it. Most of the children experiencing migraine start having symptoms in puberty.(1) The incidence increases with age.

Migraine in Children

Symptoms of Migraine in Children

The symptoms in children are similar to those of adults, they include:

  • Headache that lasts for 2-72 hours
  • One-sided headache
  • Being sensitive to light and sound
  • Pain worsening with physical activity
  • Moderate to severe pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sensory disturbances or aura

It is observed that children are more likely to observe migraine in multiple locations, across the entire head compared to adults.(2)

Diagnosing migraine in children is difficult as they are unable to describe symptoms. Subjectivity to pain intensity is another factor that is a hurdle in diagnosis as parents or the caregivers have little or nothing for comparison.

What Causes Migraine in Children?

Why children experience migraine is not clear. It is believed that genetic components may play a role.

People suffering from migraine often find certain food or situation triggering their migraine episodes. If these triggers are identified, the migraine episodes can be prevented. The identification of triggers takes time and sometimes it is seen that the triggers often overlap and lead to migraine episodes.

The common triggers of migraine are:

  • Changes In Sleep Pattern: A child if sleeps too much or too little may experience episodes. It is therefore important to maintain regular sleep.
  • Dehydration: It is important to make sure that the child drinks enough water to reduce migraine symptoms.
  • Food and Drinks: In some, eating a specific food may trigger symptoms and also eating less. Keep a check on what a child eats in a day and check the pattern.
  • Stress: Stress and overstimulation can lead to migraine. In such a case, the child needs to have a calm and quiet space.
  • Environmental Triggers: Changes in weather, smoke, and bright light can also trigger migraine.

Risk Due to Migraine Episodes

Children may not know, why they are experiencing migraine symptoms. A review showed children with migraine may also develop mood disorders, such as:(4)

All this may lead to stress which in turn can be a trigger. If you feel your child has a mood disorder, it is good not to ignore it.

How is Migraine in Children Treated?

Migraine treatment in children has numerous options. Some treatment can be done at home without the involvement of medications. Alternative therapies and traditional medications also play a role in preventing migraine episodes.

  1. Home Remedies For Migraine in Children:

    There are a few common supplements that can be used to treat migraine in children including magnesium and riboflavin. Before beginning any supplement in children it is important to speak with a doctor as some could have unintended side effects.

    A review done in 2018 found integrative therapies and self-regulation techniques to be effective in treating migraine in children, which include:(3)

  2. Over-the-Counter Treatments For Migraine in Children

    If using over-the-counter medications, the child should be given the medication as soon as it is realized that he/she is getting a migraine attack. These medications work best when combined with rest.(5)

    Also, the medications should be kept out of the child’s reach.

    Excessive use of these medications can cause medication overuse headaches. If these medications are found to be used frequently, the treatment plan should be changed.

  3. Prescription Medication

    Prescription medications can be of two types:

    • Medications that help in dealing with a migraine episode such as antiemetics, triptans, ergot alkaloids, and prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
    • Medications that prevent migraine episodes such as beta-blockers, antihistamines, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and calcium channel blockers.

    If you find your child suffering from recurring headaches a doctor should be consulted. Recurring headaches are not necessarily migraine but should be checked out.

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