As difficult as it is for adults to deal with Migraine disease and headache disorders, it's always worse to see our children suffer with them.
Children may begin getting Migraines and/or headaches at a very young age, some before they're old enough to talk and tell us what's wrong.
They may increase during adolescence, and between 4 and 10 % of children have Migraines or headaches. We often worry that there's a bigger problem when children complain of head pain — a problem such as a brain tumor, aneurysm, or other serious conditions. But that's usually not the case.
Migraine symptoms in children and adolescents may be slightly different from adults:
- The Migraines may be shorter in duration and not occur as often.
- The pain may be more centered in the forehead, but become unilateral (one sided) as the child gets older.
- Other symptoms may include nausea, sensitivity to light and sound and can be very disabling for children.
- At times it is difficult for children to express exactly how they are feeling, especially during a Migraine attack.
Dr. Paul Winner, a pediatric Migraine specialist, has his patients draw how they feel during an attack. This gives him a pretty clear-cut picture of where the head pain is when they are having trouble explaining their pain.
A Migraine diary is a very useful tool to find out what may or may not be Migraine triggers foods, weather pattern changes, smells, sleep issues, and any activity that will let you see a pattern in your child's attacks is very helpful information. Noting medications that may or may not help treat a Migraine is also important and can be placed in the diary, as it helps with treatment options and getting an accurate diagnosis. Other notes to make in the diary (especially if you have a hard time telling if your child is having a Migraine or not,) are if he/she is not watching TV or playing their favorite video games, staying in a dark room, going off by themselves, sound and lights aggravate to them, and they are very lethargic. These all may be indications that your child is indeed having a Migraine attack. for children, and adults alike. Keeping track of any
Migraines may run in families - if one parent has Migraine disease, there is a 50% chance that any children will have them. The risk increases to 75% if both parents have Migraine. And frequent Migraines require early treatment, says Dr. Winner, especially if they are interfering with your child's home and school life. Episodic (once in a while) Migraines can quickly become chronic Migraines if not treated aggressively for some children. In fact, chronic Migraines may even turn into transformed Migraine.
Some symptoms that may warrant a visit to the doctor include but are not limited to
- head injury,
- weakness on one side of the body or face,
- headache with a stiff neck,
- if the child complains that "this is the worst headache I've ever had."
These are just some of the reasons to seek immediate medical attention. If you are in doubt at any time about your child's head pain, please contact your doctor.