Few things are harder for parents than seeing their kids in pain—and no one needs to tell this to the 10 percent of families that have school-age children with migraines.
Unlike in adults, migraine pain in children isn’t always as pronounced and can lead to difficulty in diagnosis. Dizziness, nausea, vomiting and/or abdominal pain are common symptoms in kids for example but not necessarily typically associated with migraines. Other tip offs can include everything from irritability and mood swings to food cravings or loss of appetite to fatigue and yawning.
While migraines can sometimes be hard to determine as the culprit in a child’s discomfort, there are some clues that can help point the finger. Specifically, a child with one parent who experiences migraines has a 40 percent chance of having migraines also. That percentage increases to 90 if both parents suffer from them. Motion sickness and certain sleep issues such as night terrors, sleep walking and sleep talking may also be indicators of a tendency to experience migraines.
The first step to getting help is finding the correct diagnosis. If migraines are suspected it’s important to see a healthcare professional for a complete patient (and family) history. This can include everything from description of the pain and how bad it is to how often it’s experienced and for how long. Other symptoms should also be discussed along with the possibility of any patterns or triggers. Medical tests may also be undertaken including an EEG, a blood test and neuroimaging among others.
Once a diagnosis of migraine is reached, successful treatment becomes the next goal. This can be achieved on several levels.
Kids & Migraines: Prevention
Obviously the most preferable, this method prevents the migraines from even starting. Discerning a child’s trigger(s) is important for this to work. Triggers in children can be similar to those found in adults such as not getting enough sleep, not eating at regular intervals, stress, environmental issues (loud noises, bright lights or strong odors), changes in the weather, eating certain foods and in the case of girls hormonal fluctuations. While a few of these cannot be controlled, many can be by careful habits.
Herbs and supplements such as magnesium, riboflavin and feverfew among others may also be helpful for kids who suffer from many migraines. (Always consult with a healthcare professional before giving supplements or herbs to a child.)
Finally, some families find they are able to ward off migraines using means such as biofeedback, hypnosis, imagery and other relaxation techniques. Exercise, acupuncture and cognitive behavioral therapy are other possibilities to explore.
Kids & Migraines: The Future
To the extent possible it’s important to try to get childhood migraines under control. Not only do they cause pain and other debilitating symptoms but even just the anxiety and fear kids experience thinking they might have a migraine can wreak havoc on their enjoyment of school and social activities.
In some cases children can look forward to growing out of their migraines but others may suffer with them for decades with 60 percent of kids who started having them in adolescence still experiencing them decades later.
By Kristen Stewart
Kristen is a freelance writer specializing in health, nutrition, parenting and lifestyle topics. To learn more, visit her website at www.kristenestewart.com.