Migraines in Children: Children Can Get Migraines
Migraines in children are far more common than people tend to assume. Migraines usually are associated with adults, but migraines in children are often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. One of the main reasons for this is that young children find it difficult to describe the symptoms that they are feeling and parents and doctors may not recognize the symptoms as that of a migraine.
Migraines are hereditary and 75% of children that experience migraines are related to at least one other migraine sufferer. Therefore if you or a relative suffer migraines, it is worth considering the likelihood of migraine in your child.
Like migraines in adults, migraine in children can present itself as a sudden and severe headache, particularly around the eyes and temples.
Children may also experience the nausea and visual disturbances that adults do resulting in blind spots or flashing lights which can be particularly frightening for small children. Parents may notice pallor to their child’s skin and a loss of appetite.
Classic to both migraine in children and adults, many children find bright lights, strong odors and loud noises worsen the symptoms and tend to avoid them.
Despite this, it is very common that a headache will not accompany a childhood migraine, and they will not display any advance warning signs that an attack will occur. Not only this, but a migraine in a child can last anything from one hour to 72 hours.
Children can often encounter acute stomach pains that can be debilitating in their severity. This is caused by the muscles in the stomach contracting with a great deal of force to try to ease the pain. It is because of these stomach aches that migraines in children are often known as abdominal or stomach migraines.
Migraines in Children: Misdiagnosed or Misunderstood
It is as a result of this that migraines in children are misdiagnosed as tummy aches or a parent thinking it is an excuse to not go to school. As the stomach migraines can cause vomiting and nausea, it is also commonly assumed to be a stomach upset.
Although it is not fully understood what the causes of stomach migraines are, it is believed to be triggered by changes to the two chemicals, histamine and serotonin within the body. These chemical alterations could cause migraine in the form of headaches and abdominal pain.
Migraines in Children: Triggers of Migraines
Similar to adult migraine, there can be factors which cause an attack – known as triggers. These can include stress and anxiety which contribute to the chemical changes to histamine and serotonin. Psychological factors can therefore influence a migraine attack within your child. Regrettably, if the symptoms cause too much pain and distress, the body will increase the adrenaline levels which can make the pain worsen.
Again as with migraines in adults, childhood migraines can be triggered by certain foods. Common food triggers include, cheese, chocolate, dairy products, citrus fruits and in particular Chinese food which contains a high amount of monosodium glutamate. Particularly in children, Aspartame has been linked to migraines. Aspartame is the artificial sweetener used in diet food and drinks often given to children as it is better for their teeth. Keeping a food diary may indicate if your child has an intolerance to some foods.
Other triggers of migraines in children include missing meals and lack of sleep. In order to stay healthy, it is therefore crucial that your child has a healthy diet with regular meals using as few artificial ingredients as possible. Furthermore, a regular sleeping pattern and exercise routine will all aid good health.
Migraines in Children: Treatment of Migraines For Children
Migraines in children can be treated much the same as in adults. Smaller doses of pain medication can be bought over-the-counter such as Ibuprofen or Tylenol. As pain tends to become far more intense very quickly in children it is recommended to offer pain relief as soon as the child mentions the symptoms.
Ice packs and frozen towels may help to relieve the pain of a classic headache migraine and may be preferred to giving medication. However for some children pain killers and ice packs are not enough and your doctor can prescribe medication to attempt to prevent migraines in the longer term. These treatments are known as prophylactics.
Keeping a record of any attacks is advisable as preventing the migraine is better than treating the symptoms. Although there are no specific tests that can prove the problem is migraines, your doctor may wish to carry out a CT scan or an ultra-sound for abdominal migraines to rule out any other causes of the pain.