Headaches in children are far more common than most parents realize. But how can one distinguish between a run-of-the-mill headache and something more chronic and painful like a migraine?
My friend Hillary’s oldest daughter, Hannah, suffered for over seven years with many unexplained symptoms – chronic sinusitis, constant headaches, recurrent asthma, and chronic (albeit not life-threatening) infections.
During those years, they visited MANY doctors and specialists, all in the quest to “fix” her child who was suffering. In all of those years, one of her daughter’s most constant complaints (and one of the hardest for Hillary to address medicinally) was her headaches.
In the end, Hannah’s headaches were directly related to an anatomical issue, resulting in a never-ending sinus infection.
FOR MORE ON WHAT SHE LEARNED FROM THE SINUS STRUGGLES:
If your child is dealing with headaches that come and go or recur more often than you think you should, this information from The Diamond Headache Clinic will be invaluable.
Common Types of Migraine Headaches and Symptoms:
What Kind Does Your Child Have?
Migraine headaches can be some of the worst pain imaginable, and it can be even worse for children.
Although children as young as two can suffer from migraines, they are most common among adolescents and teenagers. To make matters worse, the pain children can suffer from a migraine headache can make parents feel helpless and frustrated about how they can help their children feel better.
Understanding how migraine headaches affect children can be helpful for parents in getting their children the relief they need.
In some cases, a migraine may not even be a headache at all. Instead, abdominal pain or vomiting may indicate that your child will suffer from migraine headaches later in life. Although migraines can be extremely painful for children and their parents, understanding the problem is an important first step toward relief.
Migraines can be triggered by many factors, including allergies, stress, sleep habits, and low blood sugar.
Children who suffer from migraines may become withdrawn, moody, aggressive or suddenly uninterested in certain activities like reading or playing outside.
Although migraine symptoms in children might manifest themselves in ways that are very similar to migraines suffered by adults — including intense pain, nausea and sensitivity to light and sound — they may be different.
In children, migraine headaches may only last an hour or two, and they may be far less frequent than in adults. Children who complain of migraine headaches tend to experience pain across their entire foreheads, as opposed to only on one side of their heads. However, this changes as the child gets older and becomes more unilateral.
Parents should watch their children and note any sudden changes in their routine, as these may indicate the child is experiencing a sudden sensitivity to light and/or sound.
WHAT IF IT’S A MIGRAINE BUT THERE’S NO HEADACHE?
Younger children suffering from migraine symptoms may not experience headaches at all.
Abdominal migraines primarily affect children between ages 5 and 9. They are characterized by moderate-to-severe abdominal pain that can last up to 72 hours, as well as nausea, vomiting and pallor of the skin.
Adolescents — primarily boys — may begin to experience cluster headaches around age 10. Cluster headaches commonly feature pain behind one eye, along with swelling and nasal congestion.
Headache remedies for children:
Although a migraine diagnosis can be devastating for children and their parents, many treatment options are available for children who suffer from migraines.
There are many natural remedies for headaches in children, such as diet or lifestyle changes or therapy. There are also medication options. In most cases, these have proven effective at reducing migraine symptoms and allowing children to keep their normal routines as much as possible.
If you suspect your child might suffer from migraine headaches, review the presentation below and make an appointment to see your pediatrician.
- The best treatment is relaxation.
- Lie down in a dark room.
- Use a cold compress (do not place ice directly on the skin).
- Apply a warm, wet washcloth or heating pad to your head.
- Try medicine like acetaminophen, naproxen, or ibuprofen. (Ask your doctor before giving it.)
- Do not give medication (aspirin, etc.) unless your doctor has suggested it or said it was ok.