My child could have migraines?
“Children of all ages have migraine attacks,” said Dr. Andrew Charles who directs migraine and headache studies at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine.
Determining if your child has migraine headaches isn’t easy because the symptoms aren’t always obvious.
“Migraine attacks in children may manifest as gastrointestinal symptoms to a greater degree than headache. They tend to be shorter lasting, and more responsive to medications like ibuprofen than are attacks in adults,” Dr. Charles told the National Pain Report.
Migraines are often undiagnosed and that’s especially true when they involve children. And if they are under diagnosed, that means they’ll be undertreated.
In addition to nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, sensitivity to light, sounds and odors or the child wanting to lie down in a dark room can also be signs of a migraine.
“While a migraine can be extremely debilitating, it is also often treatable. The key thing is to get your child to a headache specialist if he or she exhibits potential migraine symptoms,” said Dr. David Dodick in a news release issued by the American Migraine Foundation this week. . He is professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Scottsdale, Ariz., and the foundation’s chair.
Dr. Marcy Yonker, a pediatric neurologist at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, said, “Parents should be alert to complaints from their child of frequent headaches. This could indicate migraine or another serious condition.”
Migraine headaches tend to run in families. About 70 percent of children and teens with migraine have an immediate family member who has migraines or had them as a child, the foundation noted.
Migraine triggers can occur spontaneously, during sleep or with certain foods, with changes in weather or altitude. They can also occur from stress or fluctuating hormone levels.
Many adults with migraines don’t realize that their severe headache is actually a migraine. Only about half of adults with migraine get a migraine diagnosis.
For children, specialists like UCLA’s Dr. Charles urge parents to pay strict attention.
“If a child has episodes where they are unable to play or do school-work and want to sleep for clear reason this is a clue they may be suffering from migraines even if they are not complaining about a headache.”
The American Migraine Foundation says about 60% of children complain about headaches occasionally. The Foundation has devoted some time on its website to the topic of migraine children, including this primer to teachers and school nurses.