Is My Child Having Migraines?

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Is My Child Suffering from Migraines?. Noah Clayton/Tetra Images/Getty Images

You may be surprised to know that up to 11 percent of schoolchildren have migraines. Are you worried that YOUR child may be suffering from migraine attacks? Here are three potential clues that your instincts could be correct.

1.) "I Have To Throw Up, Mommy!"

You may think that your child is having recurrent bouts of the stomach flu or some sort of  food aversion, when it's really migraines. As in adults, nausea and/or vomiting are common symptoms of migraines in  children.

Unlike adults though, some children never even complain of headache. Instead, they may tell you they have tummy pain, are dizzy, or that they feel sick in the car.

Please note that some children suffer from a condition called cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS). This is a disorder characterized by episodes of nausea and vomiting followed by disease-free intervals. It is often considered a precursor to migraines in the pediatric population.

So, if your child has episodes of vomiting or intermittently complains of a belly ache, speak with your pediatrician. These may be signs of migraine attacks.

2.) Is Your Child Not Acting Himself?

A study of over 1,800 Brazilian children ages 5 to 11 found that children who suffer from headaches are more likely to also have behavioral issues, such as problems with:

 In addition, children with headaches had more somatic (bodily) complaints and engaged in more internalizing behaviors--behaviors directed towards themselves-- than children without headaches.

These findings were more severe in children with migraines than in children with tension-type headaches.

So, if you are noticing behavioral problems at school or in the home, or emotional disturbances, like acting more irritable or withdrawn, than please speak with your pediatrician. While this could be from a whole host of things, migraines are a possibility, especially if your child is also complaining of headache or a sensitivity to light (photophobia).

 3.) "I Want To Go Rest in a Dark Room, Mommy."

Children often express their pain less directly than adults. For instance, instead of saying, "Mommy, my head hurts," they may just say, "I want to go to bed now," or "Can you turn off the lights?" Or, you may notice that your child puts a cool object on his head to soothe the pain.

If your child asks to go sleep in a dark room, then he already knows what helps his migraines. Napping in a cool, dark, and quiet place is a first-line remedy and can be quite beneficial for a child with a migraine.

Take Home Message

Listen to your gut instinct. If you suspect your child is suffering from migraines, speak with your pediatrician. Often with trigger avoidance and healthy lifestyle habits, the number of migraine attacks can be reduced. Be proactive in your child's care.

Sources

Abu-Arefeh I, Russell G. "Prevalence of headache and migraine in schoolchildren." BMJ. 1994 Sep 24;309(6957):765-9.

Arruda MA, Bigal ME. "Behavioral and emotional symptoms and primary headaches in children: a population-based study." Cephalalgia. 2012 Nov;32(15):1093-100.

National Headache Foundation. Children's Headache Disorders. Accesed Dec 28th 2014.

Lin YP, Ni YH, Weng WC, Lee WT. Cyclic vomiting syndrome and migraine in children. J Formos Med Assoc. 2011 Jun;110(6):382-7.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this site is for informational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your doctor for advice, diagnosis, and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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