Guest Author - Karen Somma
Do children get migraine headaches? The answer unfortunately is yes. Migraine headaches are just as debilitating in children as they are in adults. They can affect the child’s ability to function throughout the day rendering him unable to complete simple tasks. While not all headaches that children get are migraines about 5% of grade school children and 20% of adolescents suffer from migraines. Boys typically suffer from them more often in their younger years and girls catch up once puberty hits and seem to suffer more often in their teens.
The symptoms for children are the same as those that adults suffer. Some of these symptoms include intense often throbbing headache pain, sensitivity to light, sound and smell, nausea and sometimes vomiting as well as seeing an aura. The aura can occur prior to the headache pain or while it is happening. Physical activity can worsen the pain and you will often feel tired and possibly confused. Children may seem irritable or moody prior to the onset of pain.
So how do you figure out if it is a migraine? Well first of all listen to what your child is telling you. He or she knows best how they feel. They may come across as seeking more attention but don’t you want more attention when you don’t feel good? Think about family history. Is there anyone else in the family that gets migraines such as parents or grandparents. If there is then that increases the chances that it is in fact a migraine sine they are thought to run in families. Document the symptoms, time of day your child gets the headaches and the circumstances of the day. This is called a headache diary and will help the pediatrician with a diagnosis. Other things you should keep track of is, what your child had to eat that day, how long did the pain last and what time of day it started and ended.
Treatment for children with migraines: The treatment for children is very similar to that of adults. Avoid triggers such as poor sleep habits, lack of exercise, stress and food triggers. Some of the food triggers include but are not limited to cheese, chocolates, and citrus fruits. Over the counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprophin are commonly used. In the case that these do not help discuss with your pediatrician the options for prescription medicines. There has not been a lot of study done on children and thus there is not a great deal of FDA approval for these medicines. Your pediatrician can help you weigh the benefits and risks in this area. The best “cure” if you want to call it that, for a migraine headache is sleep. It helps restore the brain to normal function and relieves symptoms.