What to Do If You Suspect Your Child Has Migraines

What to Do If You Suspect Your Child Has Migraines

By Charlotte Falkner Published at October 11 Views 1,272

Today, volumes of advice are available for adult migraine patients, but it can be hard to know where to start if you suspect your child may be suffering from migraines—especially if you do not have migraines yourself.

According the Migraine Research Foundation, “if one parent suffers from migraine, there is a 40 percent chance a child will also suffer; if both parents suffer, the chance rises to 90 percent.” While this statistic does not doom your child to a life of migraines if you or your spouse have them, it is a good thing to keep in mind as your child develops and, particularly, enters puberty (the time during which he or she is most prone to developing migraines).

Challenges to diagnosing migraines in children

Age. For most parents suffering from migraines, it will be easy to recognize the signs of migraines in their own children, no matter when they present themselves. The problem is that there is no consistent age at which migraines usually begin. Children as young as 18 months have been diagnosed, while some children do not begin to exhibit symptoms until later in their teen years, when they can easily be chalked up to hormones, puberty, or simply adolescence.

Symptoms. Difficulty in predicting average age onset may result in migraine symptoms being overlooked, especially during pre-verbal years. That, coupled with the fact that many children experience migraine symptoms (vomiting, aura, nausea, sensitivity to light/sound, etc.) without having an actual headache can make diagnosis extremely difficult in earlier years. And, as with adults, migraine symptoms vary so widely it is impossible to diagnose migraines by specific symptoms alone.

Gender. Researchers know that development of migraine symptoms, as well the severity, differs by gender over the childhood years. The Migraine Research Foundation states that, “Before puberty, boys suffer from migraine more often than girls. As adolescence approaches, the incidence increases more rapidly in girls than in boys. This may be explained by changing estrogen levels.”

Common symptoms of a child with migraine

Is your child vomiting frequently? As stated earlier, many children can experience migraine symptoms without reporting or experiencing an actual headache. Frequent, unexplained vomiting and nausea are especially common symptoms.

Do changes in the weather affect your child more than normal? Changes in barometric pressure (when it is stormy), seasonal adjustments, and temperature fluctuations are common migraine triggers for children. If your child is susceptible to migraines, he or she will probably exhibit migraine symptoms at these times.

Is your child showing severe sensitivity to light or sound? When a child has a migraine headache, but cannot explain the feeling, he or she may show it by exhibiting pain or aggravation when exposed to lights or loud noises (TVs, vacuum cleaners, etc.). If you find your child hiding, covering his eyes frequently, or refusing to go outside, migraines may be the reason.

Does your child seem overly stressed? For adults and children alike, stress is near the top of the migraine trigger list. School and/or family stress, something children likely have little experience handling, may cause feelings of anxiety, anger, and helplessness that could lead to a migraine.

Is your child’s schedule irregular or overcrowded with activities? Many children today have schedules that seem jam-packed with activities from the minute they get up to the minute they go to bed. As a result, sleeping and eating schedules can be erratic and disrupted, which could lead to migraines. Yes, school, church, and community activities keep children involved and active, but there may be a price to pay.

Is your child sleep deprived? Especially for adolescents, it’s easy to get on the “my child sleeps all the time” bandwagon, but if you suspect your child is suffering from migraines, sleep deprivation should be your number one suspect. Although the amount varies, sleep experts at WebMD say that children need an average of 8–10 hours of sleep a night to maintain good health.

So, what can I do if my child has migraines?

Work with your doctor to develop a plan. If your pediatrician has diagnosed your child with migraines, it is not the end of the world. The doctor will help you design a treatment plan for your child and, hopefully, you will soon be able to avoid most migraines by understanding and avoiding your child’s migraine triggers.

Keep a migraine journal for your child (and teach him or her to, as well). It can be as simple or as detailed as you want to make it, but recording as much detail about the events of the days your child has a migraine can be of great value in preventing future migraine attacks. Include specifics about how much sleep your child got, what they ate and drank, the weather for the day, their mood (or sudden mood changes), what events transpired at school, and which extracurricular activities they had that day (e.g., soccer practice, piano lessons).

Get the school prepared beforehand. Alert your child’s school nurses and administrators about their condition and the possibility of a migraine attack. If possible, leave some of their migraine medicine (if they have any, and the school allows it) for the school to dispense in an emergency, Also leave a note for their file stating the condition and including the name and number of your doctor(s). The point here is to let the powers that be know of your child’s condition before issues arise. If you have established this information beforehand, you may be able to bypass some frustration in the crucial moment your child needs help.

Respect your child’s dread of a potential migraine. The anxiety that migraines produce is very real for migraine sufferers, especially school-age children who may have to deal with bullying or judgment from classmates (and even friends or teachers) who do not understand. Migraines brought on by stress (tests, performances, sporting events) can also be handled by teaching meditation and relaxation techniques—techniques that can also be used to combat the anxiety when a migraine strikes.

Make sure your child stays healthy—and teach him how to take control of his own health going forward. Use this time as a shared learning experience for both you and your child. The value of balanced, regular meals, good sleep, and a healthy lifestyle are lessons you are never too young to learn! Help your child learn the connection between successfully establishing these habits and reducing his migraines. Teach him how to recognize when he is stressed or overwhelmed with activities. And most importantly, help him learn the link between his overall state of mind and his health.

Being a parent is a constantly changing, never-quite-have-all-the-answers adventure. If you suspect your child has migraines, you will probably feel guilty and helpless for a while. But there are helpful steps you can take, and there are many resources available for you and your child. The good news is that a certain percentage of those diagnosed with childhood-onset migraine outgrow them in adulthood. But if your child doesn’t, these tips will at least provide him or her with a great set of tools to handle migraines going into adolescence and adulthood.

For more on living with migraines:

Can Mint Make Migraines Less Miserable?
8 Things Mentally Strong People Do Every Single Day
14 Migraine Triggers You Should Know About

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