Does My Child Suffer From Migraine?
Eight percent of children suffer from migraines. Astoundingly, migraine can begin as early as two to three years of age. Children may not be able to describe what they are feeling during a migraine, and their symptoms can be very different from adult migraines.
Migraine has a strong genetic link. If you have one parent with migraine, you have almost a 50% chance of getting migraine. If you have two parents with migraine, you have a 70-90% risk of getting migraine. Unfortunately, children with headaches are frequently ignored by their medical providers, the school teachers and nurses, and their families. Physicians and advanced practitioners have minimal resources for treating children with recurrent headaches.
New evidence is emerging in the world of pediatric neurology linking many childhood syndromes to migraine. These include infant colic, benign paroxysmal torticollis, benign paroxysmal vertigo, cyclic vomiting syndrome, and abdominal migraine.
A recent meta-analysis of children and adolescents with migraine found that they were 6.6 times more likely to have infant colic than non-migraineurs.
Getting the correct diagnosis is paramount to getting optimal treatment and lessening the burden of migraine. Parents can be invaluable during the initial consult by describing the child’s behavior during the headache episodes. Is the child nauseated? Will he eat? Does he avoid playing with his friend’s? Does he prefer to go lay down? How long do the attacks last? How often does he have an attack? How frequently does he complain of a headache? Have they noticed any triggers for the headaches like skipping meals or dehydration or staying up late at night?
Treatment depends on the level of disability and the frequency of the episodes. The goal is to keep the child from missing school and other activities.
Narcotics are not recommended in children because they can easily lead to dependence.
The initial treatment is aimed at lifestyle changes to ensure better sleep, exercise, diet and hydration. Furthermore, referral to a psychologist for biofeedback training and stress management has been shown overwhelmingly to be more therapeutic than medical management alone.
The FDA has approved medication for the pediatric population specifically for migraine prevention and attack. At The Headache Center, we are devoted to helping children and families avoid the burden of migraine and empowering them to live to their fullest potential without disability.
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