How to Help a Child with Migraines

Migraines are not just a problem in adults.  Migraines in children and teens can occur as well, although they appear to experience them a little differently.

children with migrainesMigraines can be incredibly disabling to children and teens.  Approximately 70% of children suffer from headaches at least once a year, with 25% of them suffering from recurrent headaches.  Furthermore, about 10% of children have a migraine syndrome, with their first attack usually happening by the age of 12.

It is not just a regular type of headache, but a difficult condition that will likely follow them into their adulthood, so learning coping mechanisms and healthy treatment options will be beneficial to both parent and child.

The Difference between an Adult and a Child or Teen with a Migraine

First, let’s review how your child or teen’s migraine is different from yours, or any other adult’s.

  1. Their migraines generally affect the whole head, rather than just one side.
  2. The pain can come on quickly, resulting in them being in severe pain within just a few minutes’ time.
  3. Severe carsickness is often an indicator that your child’s headaches are actually migraines.
  4. Even when the migraine pain goes away, your child may still feel ill or even worse than when the migraine started.
  5. Your child may experience stomach pain rather than head pain during a migraine attack.
  6. Some early predictors of a migraine syndrome include colic as a baby, cyclical vomiting, jerking of the head from side to side, dizziness, and sensations of the room spinning.
  7. Your child may have shorter attacks than adults may, with the pain generally going away within a few hours.


Common Migraine Triggers in Teens and Children

As most of you probably already know, migraines have a vast list of triggers; however, most teen and children with migraines have recurring triggers, including:

  • Sleep deprivation or disrupted sleep patterns; this can be too much or too little sleep.
  • Dietary intake; this can include having food allergies, taking in too much junk food and sugar, or not eating enough.
  • Physical activity; sudden rigorous activity can be a migraine trigger, so an exercise routine would be more beneficial.
  • Too much screen time; the glare or flickering of screens (computer, tablets, phones, TV, etc.) can cause migraines.
  • Health and hormonal changes; children, especially teens have wild hormones, but they may also be susceptible to migraines if they are sick with a cold or flu.
  • Environment, including loud sounds, bright lights, strong smells, etc.


How to Help your Child or Teen with Migraine

Migraines can interrupt your child’s daily life and impair their social functioning, so it is important to find ways to help them prevent and cope with the migraines.  Here are some ways you can help your child with migraine:

  • Watch and track: Parents, especially mothers, have special instincts when it comes to their children.  Watch their behavior, and you will start to notice signs of an oncoming migraine attack like:
    • Excessive yawning and tiredness
    • Paleness
    • Food cravings
    • Confusion or dizziness
    • Muscle aches
    • Irritability or isolation
  • Start a migraine diary: Help your child make a migraine diary to track symptoms and triggers.
  • Reassurance and Support: Get a diagnosis and start experimenting with treatments. Let them know they are not alone in the process.  Encourage them to keep track in their migraine diary and talk about their symptoms.

Most importantly, remember that you know your child better than any doctor does.  If you know that something is wrong and the doctor is refusing to diagnose, or is trying to throw pills at your developing child, find another doctor.

As I mentioned, 70% of children suffer from headaches at least once a year, but many of those kids continue to have them, and they worsen over time.  If you are struggling to get the migraines under control, it would be worthwhile to talk to a functional medicine provider or naturopath, because finding the origin of the migraine is more important than treating the symptoms with potentially harmful drugs.



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