How to Explain Migraine to Children
Do you or someone you know have migraines? There are things people with migraines need to know so we can take good care of ourselves and try to keep migraines from getting in the way of doing the things we want to do. I've had migraines since I was 6 years old, and I remember how hard it was when my friends were doing things while I was stuck at home in my room with a migraine.
The good news is that doctors know a lot more about migraines than they did then, and they can do a lot more to help us with our migraines.
Let's talk for a minute about what migraines are. They're not exactly headaches. Sometimes, a headache is part of a migraine attack, but sometimes we can have a migraine without a headache. There are other things called symptoms that go with a migraine. We don't need to have all of them, but we usually have some of them. These other symptoms can be:
- nausea (upset stomach)
- our eyes being extra sensitive to light
- being extra sensitive to sound
- feeling confused
- having trouble talking
Migraine is a disease, but it's not a disease to be afraid of. It's inherited, so someone in your family, now or in the past, has or had migraines, even if they didn't realize it. They might have thought they just had headaches.
Migraines happen because we come across things called triggers — things that bring on migraines. For some of us, some foods can trigger migraines. For some of us, our triggers can be things such as:
- not getting enough sleep
- getting too much sleep
- flickering lights
- a room that's too hot
- not drinking enough and getting dehydrated
- being in the sun too long
- other things...
Have you studied neurons in school yet? Neurons are special nerve cells that carry messages. The human brain has about 100 billion neurons! People with migraines have some neurons that are too excited. What happens when we meet one of our migraine triggers is that those neurons get even more excited and start moving in a big wave across our brains, and that starts the migraine.
Medicines like Tylenol and Advil can help some if we have a headache with our migraines, but they can't make the migraine stop. There are medicines that can make migraines stop. They're called migraine abortive medications. There's one that's been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be used by kids 6 years old and older. It's called Maxalt. There's another one that's been approved to be used by kids 12 years old and older, called Axert. Both of these have to be prescribed by your doctor.
If you have headaches or what you think might be migraines, it's important to tell your parents and ask them to take you to the doctor so your doctor can tell you what's going on — if you're having some type of headache, or if you're having Migraines. That's something we need to know so we can take care of ourselves and take the right kind of medicine.
When you have a migraine, be sure to tell your parents when you have one. Don't just try to keep doing whatever you were doing. You will need to take your medicine and lie down a bit. When you take your medicine as soon as you know you have a migraine, it works better.
Do you have questions about migraines? If you're 13 or older, post a comment below, and I'll try to answer them for you. If you're under 13, get your parents to post a comment for you. You can also ask your doctor any questions you have the next time you see your doctor. It's OK to ask your doctor questions. Answering your questions is part of his or her job.
Chudler, Eric H. "Types of Neurons." Neruoscience for Kids.
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Reviewed by David Watson, MD.
© Teri Robert, 2012 - Present, • Last updated August 12, 2014.