Migraine Symptoms in Children

By Barb Nefer

  • Overview

    Migraine Symptoms in Children
    According to the eMedicineHealth website, up to 10 percent of school-age children suffer from migraine headaches, and that number may be even higher in teens. Knowing the symptoms will allow parents and caretakers to identify this problem and seek treatment for afflicted children.
  • Features

    The features of a migraine headache in a child are throbbing pain in the head that occurs on a regular basis. The pain is usually located around the eyes, in the front part of the head, or in the temples. The child may also turn pale and feel dizzy or sick to her stomach, even to the point of vomiting. A type of impaired vision, known as an aura, may occur prior to the headache's onset. These symptoms may be worsened by loud noise, bright light and strong smells.
  • Effects

    While migraine headaches typically don't cause long-term physical damage, they can take a heavy toll on a child's quality of life. They can impair her normal daily activities, including school, home and play time. The website eMedicineHealth reports that up to 80 percent of child migraine sufferers had their activities affected. Among 970,000 youngsters in one study, 329,000 school days were lost each month due to the effects of their migraine symptoms. Because the pain is often intense, they are not able to function during and after the headache, so they cannot function in the classroom.


  • Causes

    Although research has not yet pinpointed the exact cause of migraines in children, there seems to be an inherited component. The Mayo Clinic cites many other suspected causes such as changes in the brain's nerve system or imbalances in certain brain chemicals like serotonin. Other suspected causes include hormonal changes in the body, weather changes, eating certain foods or being exposed to environmental triggers such as bright light, loud noise or strong odors. The researchers also suspect that stress and physical exertion may play a role.
  • Treatment

    Before beginning treatment for childhood migraines, most doctors rule out other conditions that could be causing similar symptoms such as brain tumors or bleeding in the brain membranes. If migraines are identified as the cause, treatment centers around minimizing the symptoms until the pain passes. Sleep typically helps to alleviate a migraine, so a child suffering from a headaches should lie down in a dark, cool, quiet room. This protects her from triggers that could make the symptoms worse such as light, noise and smell. Medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen may be taken during the early phase of the headache to help alleviate the pain.
  • Prevention

    Because the exact cause of migraines in children is unknown, it's difficult to prevent the symptoms from occurring. The child or a parent can keep a diary of what was going on right before the symptoms began. This will help pinpoint whether environmental causes such as weather changes, certain foods, sounds or smells might be playing a role. If there are certain triggers, the symptoms can be prevented by avoiding them as much as possible.
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