How to Recognize Migraines in Kids

Migraine headaches aren’t only a problem for adults; they affect young kids and teenagers, too. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, 10 percent of school-aged children experience migraine headaches. Migraines often carry debilitating consequences for kids, and it can be difficult for them to describe their exact symptoms to their parents and caregivers.

Whether you suffer from migraine or not, understanding the signs and how to manage your child’s symptoms is imperative. Migraine is a complex neurological disease that can cause severe pain, sensitivity to light and smells, stomach pain, mood swings, and more. The worst part? This condition can affect your child’s ability to lead a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Is My Child Suffering from Migraine?

The American Migraine Foundation estimates that 70 percent of children who experience migraines have a family member who also lives with chronic headaches. If one parent in a family has been diagnosed with migraine, understand that your child has a strong 50% chance of the same. If both parents suffer, the chance of your child suffering then soars to 75%.

And while migraine is usually known as a relentless headache, for children (and adults) it is often so much more than that. Childhood migraines, just like those in adults, can stem from a food allergy, which can lead to other digestive issues such as leaky gut syndrome and IBS. And just in case obtaining a migraine diagnosis wasn’t tricky enough, suffering with a leaky gut can also cause migraines, making it even more difficult to diagnose the root of the problem.

What Do Kids’ Migraines Looks Like?

Does your child describe a migraine with aura, or perhaps they are experiencing noticeable mood changes or lethargy? If the headaches your child are complaining of are indeed migraines, it is important to work with a migraine specialist to ensure treatment is approached in the right manner.

Some of the symptoms of migraine in kids include:

●       Weakness on one side of the body

●       Pain at the base of the skull

●       Speech and language issues

●       Confusion

●       Irritability

●       Sensitivity to sound and light

●       Loss of appetite

●       Dizziness and vertigo

●       Uncontrolled vomiting

●       Stomach pain, usually near the belly button

Managing Your Child’s Symptoms

Managing migraine headaches will depend on your child’s age, medical history, and current symptoms. Although both boys and girls are susceptible, girls are more likely to experience chronic migraine following puberty, while boys often experience migraine before puberty sets in.

Some of the most effective ways I’ve found to manage migraine in children include:

●       Find their triggers – This is a big one. Helping your child recognize what may be causing their migraine headaches will play an instrumental role in how they manage the condition. We’ve talked about food and lifestyle triggers, but other triggers include stress, lack of sleep, caffeine, social media, current events, changes in normal eating patterns, and medications.

●       Reduce stress – Migraine symptoms often come with the start of school or other stressful activities. Talking to your child about what causes stress and giving them helpful tools to manage this stress is a must. Encourage them to participate in activities and hobbies that make them happy, eat a well-rounded diet, and get enough rest.

●       Keep a migraine – I encourage my patients – young and old alike – to keep a migraine diary, as it can be very helpful in understanding the why of migraines.

●       Eat healthily – It is important for people of all ages to maintain a healthy, balanced diet, but this is particularly the case for developing children who suffer from migraines.  Start with an elimination diet to find any sensitivities

The sooner you evaluate all of these management techniques and triggers, the closer and more equipped you’ll be to help them moving forward.


The Hour – Headaches Increase As Children Return to School

US News – Recognizing Migraine in Kids – and What to Do About It

American Migraine Foundation – Migraine in Children

EMedicine – Migraine Headaches in Children Facts