What to Do for Your Child or Teen with Migraine

Migraine doesn’t discriminate – it doesn’t care whether you’re an adult, child, or teenager. It can cause a severe headache, significant nausea, disturbed vision and many other symptoms for adults and youngsters alike. The third most prevalent illness in the world, 10 percent of children live with migraines. Although many people think migraine is “just a bad headache,” we know that couldn’t be further from the truth.

This neurological condition is genetic, with 90 percent of migraineurs having a family history of migraine. For parents with migraines, there’s a pretty good chance your children will experience one or more of the disabling symptoms. But migraine looks different for everyone, especially children and teens. To manage your child’s symptoms, you must learn how to identify their triggers and help them find the tools that will provide relief.

Recognizing Migraine in Kids

Often, migraine goes undetected or is misdiagnosed in kids and children. It’s mistaken for a typical headache regularly because parents and physicians don’t recognize common migraine symptoms. Understanding the differences between an ordinary headache and a migraine is the first step in helping your child or teen learn to navigate what migraine looks like for them.

Some of the most common migraine symptoms reported by kids and teens are:

●       Nausea

●       Vomiting

●       Headache that comes on suddenly

●       Car sickness

●       Head pain that affects the entire head (rather than just one side)

●       Dizziness

●       Migraine with aura

●       Fatigue

●       Sensitivity to light or sound

●       Disturbed vision

●       Abdominal pain but no headache

●       Digestive issues

Abdominal migraines are common in children between the ages of 5 and 9 or even infants. If your child suffers from this type of migraine, be on the lookout for symptoms like concentrated abdominal pain along with cyclical vomiting, lasting a few hours at a time.

How to Identify Your Child’s Triggers

Symptoms of migraines in children and teens will vary and are often different from those in adults, as are their triggers. For many teens, anticipatory anxiety is a significant trigger. If you notice your teen is feeling anxious before school or seems saddled with worry that’s out of character, migraine may be to blame.

Common migraine triggers in kids and teenagers include:

●       Stress

●       Allergies

●       Sleep (or lack thereof)

●       Dehydration

●       Diet

●       Menstruation

●       Lack of exercise

●       Environmental factors

Managing Your Child’s Migraine Symptoms

Many adults can trace the start of their migraine attacks to childhood. Learning how to recognize symptoms and identify any known triggers is a great place to start when it comes to helping children understand and manage these debilitating episodes.

As you can imagine, migraines can have a serious impact on your quality of life. It may also contribute to deep-seated emotional and psychological issues down the road. Normalizing your child’s experience and giving them the tools to understand symptoms will go a long way to helping them develop safe coping skills and find an effective treatment plan.

Here are a few ways you can do that:

●       Encourage them to keep a migraine diary

●       Try relaxation techniques, breathing exercises and meditation to manage daily stressors

●       Talk about it

●       Cognitive-behavioral therapy

●       Practice mindfulness

●       Eliminate common migraine triggers (food, chemical, smells) from your environment

●       Learn acupressure points your child can self-apply

There are many ways to support your child and help them cope with their migraine attacks, and I’m here to help. If you’ve tried these tips and your child or teen is still struggling, call 203-840-0000 for a phone consultation.


Neurology Advisor – Pediatric Migraine: Evidence-Based Alternative Management

U.S. News – Recognizing Migraine in Kids – And What to Do About It

Migraine Research Foundation – Migraine in kids is not just a bad headache

Migraine Trust – Guide for Parents and Carers