Headaches aren't just an adult problem. Migraine is the most common pattern of acute and recurrent headaches experienced by children. In early childhood and before puberty, migraines are more common in boys. In adolescence, migraines affect more girls. As adults, women are three times more likely to suffer from migraine than adult men.
You may worry that child migraines are a sign of a more serious problem, such as a brain tumor, but this does not apply to most cases of children's headaches. Although about half of children who have migraines will continue to experience these complaints when they are adults, migraines are not a serious or life-threatening disorder.
You can track the symptoms of a child migraine and find treatment here, so you can help your child feel better.
What are the symptoms of a child migraine?
Symptoms of child migraines are slightly different than adults. Here's the explanation:
- Headache often affects the entire head not just one side, but maybe the pain feels more centered on one side; the pain is throbbing or blunt; shorter attacks, sometimes lasting less than 1 hour, often improving in two-four hours; headaches may get worse if the child does even light activities.
- Headaches may disappear, but the child may feel unwell or sick and this may be worse than a headache. Sometimes, complaints of malaise are the final sign of a child's migraine attack and can bring relief.
- Complains abdominal pain without headaches
- Frequently, motion sickness is an indication of a child migraine
- Headaches can come very suddenly, and the child may feel severe pain in less than 15 minutes
- Weak, lethargic
- Interrupted vision, a migraine aura appears
- Sensitive to light and sound
- The head is like a rotating room; nauseous vomit; looks pale
- Lack of appetite
- Drooping eyelids and dilated pupils - associated with migraine ophthalmoplegia
- Body weakness on one side (similar to stroke) - associated with hemiplegic migraine
- Some common illness syndromes in infants, such as vomiting for several hours, restlessness in changing head position while lying on their side, dizziness complaints, and colic can be predictors of migraine later in life.
Symptoms of child migraines vary from one child to another, and can even differ from one attack to the next. Some children who are prone to migraines only suffer from occasional headaches, others may have attacks every week, other children may suffer from migraines almost every day. Similarly, some children suffer attacks every day for several weeks, but then do not have further attacks for several months. Other children can experience migraines in almost monthly or weekly patterns.
What causes child migraines?
Most children experience headaches due to illness, infection, or fever. Migraine is a different story. Doctors don't know exactly what causes migraines, even though they know that migraines are related to changes in the size of arteries inside and outside the brain, as well as chemical structures in the brain. In many cases, child migraine is a hereditary condition in the family. If one parent has a history of migraines, the child has a 50% chance of developing a migraine, and if both parents have a history of migraine, the child's risk rises to 75 percent.
In many cases of child and adolescent migraines, headaches are triggered by external factors. Triggers can vary for each child. Some common migraine triggers include:
- Emotional stress : Migraine sufferers are generally very affected by stressful events. Emotions caused when stressed, such as anxiety, worry, and fatigue can increase muscle tension and dilation of blood vessels thereby increasing the severity of migraine headaches.
- Sleep patterns: Some children can get migraines if their sleep patterns are disrupted. This can include having too much sleep, and insufficient sleep. Setting a schedule for getting up early and getting a regular night's sleep can help avoid developing attacks.
Diet: Skipping meals or eating sugary snacks can contribute to migraine attacks. Both lower the body's blood sugar levels and can cause migraines. Regular regular three meals can help.
- Daily routine: For some children, sudden physical exercise, such as running, can trigger a migraine attack. Glare and flashing from a computer screen or TV can trigger migraines. Being in a room with bright lights and /or loud sounds also triggers a child's migraine. Weather changes such as rainstorms, strong winds, or changes in height can also trigger migraines.
How do you treat a child migraine?
There is no cure for migraines. The goal of treatment is to control your child's current symptoms and prevent migraines from getting worse.
If your child has a migraine, follow the treatment steps below:
1. Control the symptoms
If a migraine has been diagnosed by your pediatrician, do the following.
- Give ibuprofen or paracetamol (not aspirin) to relieve pain in the early stages of headache
- Place a cold compress on the child's forehead
- Ask the child to take a deep breath and throw it slowly
- Lay the child in a quiet and cold dark room
- Sleep, even for as little as 15 minutes helps migraine attacks go away.
- Your child may find that eating small, nutritious snacks regularly but can help control migraine attacks. Also drink lots of fluids
- Many children are more prone to get migraines when they don't feel healthy for other reasons. For example, you might find that child migraines often recur when they are having a cold or an upset stomach. Treating the underlying condition can help control migraines
- Anything that has triggered a migraine in the past should be avoided if possible.
2. Go to the doctor
Go to the doctor, if:
- Headaches recur, get worse after being treated, or last more than 12 hours
- Severe migraine headaches accompanied by fever, vomiting, and neck stiffness
- The child's head is injured before getting a headache
- You feel your child doesn't look good or his condition is worrying
Doctors can usually make a diagnosis of a child's migraine after carefully listening to the story and checking your child. For a handful of children, a series of tests can be done to rule out other causes of headache complaints. Most children do not need any tests, and no medical tests can prove a diagnosis of migraine.
To treat child migraine attacks very often, preventive drugs can be prescribed by doctors: cyproheptadine, propranolol, tricyclic or calcium channel blockers.
3. Get medical help
Contact emergency medical assistance (118/119) or immediately visit the nearest emergency unit, if:
- You cannot wake your child
- Children speak slurred, confusion, weakness in all hands or feet, difficulty walking
- This headache complaint is the worst that a child has ever felt
Child migraine can disappear as soon as a year after the first attack appears, or migraines may stay in life. Treatment helps the majority of children and adolescents with migraines. Fifty percent of children and adolescents report an increase in migraine within 6 months after treatment. About 60 percent of migraines appear first when teenagers continue to relapse for years.
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