Manage Your Migraine /

Migraine in children

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Migraine and headache in children

Children can have migraine, although symptoms may be different to adults and don't always include head pain.

Often the headache is across both sides of the head, rather than being one-sided. A family history of migraine is often a predictor of migraine due to the highly genetic aspect of migraine disease.

Migraine symptoms in children can include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light (photophobia) and sensitivity to sound (phonophobia). Migraine attacks are often shorter in children than adults.

It’s estimated that 10% of children have migraine. Prevalence is relatively the same in both boys and girls until puberty. After puberty the incidence increases in girls, due to the changes in estrogen levels.

Research has shown that some childhood conditions such as colic may be an early indication of developing migraine.

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Common migraine attack triggers for children are similar to triggers in adults, including:

  • lack of sleep
  • stress
  • dehydration
  • hot weather
  • hormones.

Diagnosis of migraine in children can be difficult due to the associated gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, as a more prominent symptom.

If you suspect your child has migraine, keeping a diary of symptoms can be helpful. Record things such as nausea, vomiting, headaches, wanting to be in a dark room or asking for the room to be quiet or finding somewhere quiet to rest.

The treatment of migraine in children involves a combination of lifestyle modifications, acute management during attacks, and preventive measures to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. Preventive medications may be prescribed for older children.

Over the counter simple pain relief medications such as paracetamol and ibuprofen may be recommended by a doctor for use during a migraine attack. Triptan medications may also be prescribed.

Lifestyle modifications are an important part of a child’s migraine management plan. The migraine brain likes routine and consistency.

Just like for adults, supporting healthy lifestyle habits such as maintaining a regular sleep schedule, regular exercise, managing stress through relaxation techniques (eg meditation, deep breathing exercises), healthy diet and staying hydrated may help reduce migraine frequency and intensity.

The SEEDs mnemonic is often used when talking about how people with migraine can influence their migraine triggers.

SEEDS stands for:

  • S: Sleep
  • E: Exercise
  • E: Eat healthy
  • D: Diary
  • S: Stress management

Supplements such as magnesium may be helpful for children with migraine. Some non-medication treatment options used for adults can also be beneficial for children.

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