How do Migraines in Children differ from those in Adults

by Garreth Myers


It is important for parents to know how to handle migraines in children. Headaches commonly occur even in children and in many cases; the causes include viral infections such as the common cold or flu. Children may also suffer from tension headaches. Before puberty, boys tend to experience migraines more commonly than girls. However after that, girls are almost three times more likely to suffer from migraine headaches. It is quite easy to treat migraines in children, but the main problem lies in diagnosis. It can often be difficult to diagnose migraines in children.

A migraine is manifested differently in a child as compared to an adult. Many of the symptoms are common to both adults and children, but parents need to be aware of certain other symptoms that occur only in children. The main points of difference between migraines in children and in adults are that children's migraine symptoms begin suddenly and may also get aggravated rather quickly. Children may also suffer from abdominal pain and discomfort. These are known as abdominal migraines and tend to occur in younger children. There may be no actual pain in the head region, but the child may experience nausea or vomiting. The symptoms may vary in duration and may last for just an hour or may persist for a couple of days. Children also suffer from a lesser degree of nausea as compared to adults and the symptoms are generally relieved with sleep. The other symptoms of a migraine that children commonly face are the same ones which occur in adults such as sensitivity to sound and light and pain in the forehead and eye area. The triggers of a migraine in children are similar to those in adults. Inadequate sleep or lack of sleep is a common migraine trigger. Some of the other triggers include loud sounds, bright lights, strong aromas, weather changes and stress. Consumption of certain foods can also result in symptoms of a migraine. Foods that commonly cause migraines include chocolate, cheese, shellfish, nuts, caffeine and sugar. Skipping meals, excessive physical activity, hormonal fluctuations and menstruation can also lead to migraines in children.

Doctors diagnose migraines in children through examination of the medical history, physical examination and evaluation of the symptoms. The child will be asked about the nature of headache symptoms and also the severity, location and duration of the symptoms. The doctor will advise the parents on how to handle migraines in children. Adequate rest, avoidance of triggers and stress reduction are all part of migraine treatment. Children prone to migraines also need to follow a regular sleeping and eating schedule. Teaching the child to recognize migraine triggers is also important. This will help to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks. It also helps to maintain a diary in which a record of migraine triggers and nature of the attacks is kept. This will help both parents and children to understand the condition better.

When a migraine occurs in a child, the first thing to do is to have the child lie down in a quiet and dark room. This must be done until the pain ceases. Placing a cool washcloth on the forehead also helps to alleviate pain and pressure in the head area. There are also some medications which are beneficial in treating migraine symptoms. It is important to consult a doctor before giving a child any medication and it is also essential to check the product labels properly for dosage instructions. Gentle massages are known to be beneficial in relieving migraines in children as they help to ease muscular tension. It also helps to give the child a drink of water when a migraine occurs as dehydration could worsen the symptoms.

Prevention is the best way to keep migraines in check. The diet should be regulated so that potential triggers are excluded. Many children are sensitive to foods such as citrus fruits, bananas, avocados and caffeinated foods and beverages. Monosodium glutamate or MSG which is used to enhance the flavor of foods is another common migraine trigger. All such foods should be strictly avoided in order to prevent migraine symptoms. Children can also experience migraines in response to psychological, physical or environmental triggers. Psychological triggers include anxiety, depression and worry. Parents play a key role in helping a child deal with such negative feelings in a healthy manner. Some studies have shown that headaches in children tend to occur after periods of physical exertion. Children prone to migraine headaches must be made to take regular breaks from sports or any other activities which involve physical exertion. Environmental triggers include fluorescent or flickering lights, bright computer screens and complicated visual patterns. Again, awareness of triggers is extremely important so that they can be avoided. Young children may sometimes develop migraine symptoms due to the movements caused while travelling.


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