"Drug-Free approach for five year old with migraines?

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  • Full Question:

    What "drug-free" approach to use for 5 yr. old who may be our 4th generation w/ migraines.

    My 5 year old daughter yesterday informed me that her head hurt only on one side. She was fascinated. I was devastated. She said it didn't hurt that bad but still, since I have suffered from migraines almost my entire life, as did my mother and grandmother, I fear she too has THE GENE. Assuming this is true, I want to manage her disease, obviously, as well I as possibly can and I know that she will need to see a specialist. But I want to know if you agree with two things I believe are true.

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    1. All medications, and particularly pain medications, if they are taken "regularly," become less useful over time.
    2. Each severe migraine damages your brain and/or your nervous system so that future migraines are likely to become more painful and/or occur more often, i.e., you become more sensitive.

    If 1. is true (or even if not), then what non-drug treatment or technique should we pursue? Biofeedback? (I haven't had much luck) Acupuncture? ... Is there much info on triptan use in children? I really hate to give her meds but if 2. is true....  Nickini.
     

     

    Answer:

     

    Dear Nickini,

     

    First, please don't assume that your daughter has Migraines. If Migraine isn't in her father's family history, your daughter has a 50/50 chance of inheriting the disease. Take her to the doctor for diagnosis as you mentioned.

     

    No, not all medications become less useful over time.

     

    To your second point -- we don't know all of this to be true with certainty, but there is very strong evidence that Migraine is a progressive disease, so preventing as many Migraines as possible and quick treatment for the Migraines that do occur is essential. See Is Migraine a Progressive Brain Disease for more information.

     

    Discuss any and all "non=drug" approaches with your child's doctor. Acupuncture has had mixed reports. Biofeedback has been found to be more effective in children than adults. Some people consider supplements and other such products to be "drug-free" approaches. Please remember that they're not. Herbs, minerals, and the like were mankind's first drugs, and they do act as drugs in our bodies. They should be approached as drugs and discussed with our doctors before trying them.

     

    No, there isn't much information about the use of triptans in children. There have been some successful studies of triptans for adolescents, but not children. It's unlikely that there will be studies of triptans in pre-adolescent children.

     

    For children your daughter's age, the most recommended "treatment" for a Migraine attack is:

    • a dark, quiet room
    • a gel or ice pack
    • possibly children's ibuprofen
    • possibly children's Benadryl to help them sleep
    • sleep

    These are things you can discuss with your daughter's doctor. Sleep is a "natural Migraine abortive."

     

    You're absolutely on the right track to get a diagnosis and start disease management now. This will benefit your daughter for her lifetime.

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    Good luck,
    John Claude Krusz and Teri Robert

     

     

    About Ask the Clinician:

    Dr. Krusz is a recognized expert in the fields of headache and Migraine treatment and pain treatment. Each week, he and Lead Expert Teri Robert, team up to answer your questions about headaches and Migraines. You can read more about Dr. Krusz or more about Teri Robert.

     

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    © Teri Robert and J.C. Krusz, 2008.

    Last updated July 28, 2008.

     

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Published On: July 28, 2008