What is migraine headache in children?

Migraine Headache in Children

Migraine headaches in children: Overview

Migraines are severe, throbbing headaches that usually occur on one side of the head. But they can move from side to side or affect both sides. They often occur with nausea or vomiting. People with a migraine are often very sensitive to light, noise, and smells. Changes in vision may happen before the headache. Some of these changes are flashing lights or dark spots.

Kids get migraine headaches too. Migraine headaches often run in families. A migraine can be triggered by a variety of things. This can include certain foods (chocolate, cheese, fast food) or odors, smoke, bright light, stress, dehydration, hunger, or lack of sleep.

Without treatment, your child's migraine headache can last 2 to 72 hours. For most children, migraine headaches return from time to time. Home treatment can help reduce how often and how uncomfortable the migraine headaches are.

What happens when your child has a migraine headache?

Migraines in children sometimes start with an aura of spots, wavy lines, or flashing lights about 30 minutes before the headache begins. Without treatment, a migraine headache can last from 2 to 72 hours. Having a stiff neck or feeling very tired may last for up to a day after the migraine ends.

What are the symptoms of migraine headaches in children?

Migraine headaches may cause a painful throbbing that can be felt on one or both sides of the head. Your child may have other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light or noise, and changes in vision, such as flashing lights or dark spots.

How are migraine headaches in children treated?

Migraine headaches can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers, such as children's acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If this doesn't help, or if the headaches happen often, your doctor may prescribe other medicines. Home treatment, such as resting and managing stress, can also help your child feel better.

Preventing migraine headaches in your child

To prevent migraine headaches in your child, try these tips.

  • Keep a headache diary.

    This can help you figure out what triggers your child's headaches. Record when each headache begins, how long it lasts, where it hurts, and what the pain is like. Write down any other symptoms your child has with the headache, such as nausea, flashing lights or dark spots, or sensitivity to bright light or loud noise. List anything that might have triggered the headache. When you know what things trigger your child's headaches, try to avoid them.

  • Make sure that your child drinks plenty of fluids.

    Avoid drinks that have caffeine. Many popular soda drinks contain caffeine.

  • Make sure that your child gets plenty of sleep.

    Most children need to sleep about 9 to 14 hours each night, depending on their age.

  • Encourage your child to get plenty of exercise.

    But make sure your child doesn't exercise too hard. It may trigger a headache.

  • Encourage your child not to skip meals.

    Provide regular, healthy meals.

  • Keep your child away from smoke.

    Do not smoke or let anyone else smoke around your child or in your house.

  • Find healthy ways to deal with stress.

    Do not overbook your child's time.

  • Seek help if you think your child may be depressed or anxious.

    Treating these problems may reduce the number of migraines your child has.

  • Limit the amount of time your child spends in front of the TV and computer.

How are migraine headaches in children diagnosed?

Your child's doctor will do a physical exam and ask questions, such as how often the headaches occur and what the symptoms are. The doctor will also ask about your child's overall health. Other exams and tests are usually recommended only if the doctor finds signs of other health problems.

How can you care for your child who has a migraine headache?

If your child gets a migraine, have them take their prescription medicine right away. If your doctor has not prescribed a medicine, give them an over-the-counter children's pain reliever right away. Have your child relax in a quiet, dark place. A cold, moist cloth on your child's head or a neck massage may help.

What causes migraine headaches in children?

Experts aren't sure what causes migraines in children. They believe that changes in the activity of brain cells may lead to inflammation in certain nerves, which causes pain. Migraines often run in families, so genetics may play a role for some children.

What are migraine headaches in children?

Migraines are a common type of headache in children. They are an intense, throbbing headache that can be felt on one side or both sides of the head. They can sometimes be hard to tell apart from other types of headaches. Different things can trigger migraines in different people.

Recurring migraine headache in children: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child develops a fever and a stiff neck.
  • Your child has new nausea and vomiting, or your child cannot keep down food or liquids.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child has a headache that does not get better within 1 or 2 days.
  • Your child's headaches get worse or happen more often.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.

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