Child Migraine: Early Detection is Vital

by : skleong

Has your child been complaining of severe migraine headache pains? Is there cause for concern or can you simply dismiss these pains as migraine headaches are not life threatening in the first place? You may also be apt to think that your child is giving you another excuse for not attending school. But really, if the reasons are valid and the headache pains are real, early detection is vital for the well being of your child.

This condition heralds much importance because often the symptoms of child migraine are mistaken for other diseases or conditions. For example, in younger children, a migraine attack is often accompanied by nausea, visual disturbance, and apparent abdominal disturbances/pain, which is both difficult to diagnose and mostly misleading.

It is important to know that your child is suffering from migraines as they can cause emotional changes such as anxiety or depression. About 65-80% of children with migraines interrupt their normal activities because of their headaches. In one study of 970,000 self-reported migraineurs aged 6-18 years, 329,000 school days were lost per month. Appropriate diagnosis and treatment of migraines can greatly improve quality of life.

Migraines can inflict a child as young as 5 years old. In fact, approximately 20% of all migraine sufferers have their first attack before that age.

Studies suggest that migraine headaches occur in 5-10% of school-aged children in the United States, a percentage that increases and finally peaks at about age 44 years. Many people experience spontaneous remission. This means that the headaches disappear on their own suddenly and for no apparent reason.

It is difficult to make an accurate diagnosis yourself as children in their very young ages would not have the vocabulary to express what they are feeling at that time. As a matter of fact, only a specialist in treating migraine headaches could read the symptoms in the correct perspective, in the first place itself, and it is to such people that child migraine cases must be referred to while seeking medical help.

So, how to find out if a child is having a migraine episode? As a rule of thumb, children with migraine appear pale and ill. At the onset of the attack, they might show restlessness, change in behavior, or try to withdraw from contact with others. Showing over sensitiveness to smell, light and sound is also a clear symptom of an approaching migraine episode. But, as mentioned earlier, children may not be able to convey their sufferings exactly to their parents, and hence it is the duty of parents and teachers to read the obvious migraine signals and provide them the necessary care and medical attention.

The best treatment for child migraine, occurring in a mild level, is a combination of identifying the possible triggers, rest, and stress reduction. A sound and deep sleep is the most effective medicine for child migraine, while avoiding the triggers helps to reduce the frequency of child migraines by more than 50%.

Hence, when a child migraine attack happens, make the child slip to sleep as quickly as possible in a cool, dark and quiet room. If the pain is unbearable for the child, you may choose to consider giving him/her mild doses of over-the-counter Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), ibuprofen (Advil), and acetaminophen (Tylenol) on prescription.

Preventive medicine is sometimes prescribed for children getting 1-2 child migraine attacks every week, but it is resorted to in a worst case since such medications are prone to trigger side effects in the long run.

Identifying in advance possible triggers is still the best remedy. Spend more time and talk to your child more to find out about his stressors. Prepare meals that are healthy and help him or her avoid food triggers. Although many migraine disorders do not develop until middle age, early detection of triggers go a long way in helping your child adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Finally, if the situation is not improving reasonably even after six months since treatments started, you may consider seeking the advice of a neurologist.