Migraine Awareness Week: How do you know your child has

Although migraines are common, they are often misunderstood – especially when it comes to children.

“Children get migraines. The youngest I have ever seen is 18 months, but the usual age range is between six and 15,” says Consultant Pediatric Neurologist, Dr. Arif Khan, who completed his training in the UK and is now based in the Middle East, He founded the Children’s Neuroscience Center, Neuropedia.

“Migraine awareness has become so prominent in adults that we can forget about children. It is underdiagnosed.”

Do children have the same migraine symptoms as adults?

Detecting migraines in children may be more difficult than in adults. “Usually, if you ask an adult how a migraine feels, they will say they have throbbing on one side of their head, and you can associate it with vomiting or nausea, extreme sensitivity to bright light, or loud noises,” Khan says. . The child may not have a written description of the migraine. They may just say that they are very tired, and their head hurts – and often they cannot pronounce what is happening.”

How can you spot the symptoms of migraine headaches in children?

Juliana Vanderbloem, MD, an assistant professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona who has been extensively researching childhood migraines, says there are differences and similarities — but even with children, there can be signs that Not a regular headache.

“As in adults, migraines in children and adolescents are often moderate to severe, have a throbbing quality and may worsen with physical activity,” she says. Children may be more likely to have headaches on both sides of the head (bilateral) than adults, as migraines are often one-sided (one-sided). Children and teens may also have shorter migraine attacks that last only two hours, while attacks in adults generally last more than four hours.

To diagnose migraine headaches in adults, they should report sensitivity to light and sound and/or nausea or vomiting. But in children, since they may not be able to describe sensitivity to light and sound, this can be inferred from their behaviour.” For example, do they avoid spaces and activities with bright light and sounds? Do they take themselves to rest more?

While migraines are not always severe, they can be as debilitating for children as adults. In the words of VanderPluym: “Migraines can cause significant disability in children and adolescents. They can affect social and family relationships, and lead to absenteeism from work, school attendance, extracurricular and recreational activities.”

Why do some children get migraine headaches?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer. But VanderPluym says: “Migraine is a neurological disease that we think has a genetic basis, and its expression depends on environmental factors. [triggers]. For this reason, migraines usually run in families, but they don’t necessarily appear the same in every person.

“With the exception of some rare forms of migraine (such as hemiplegic migraine) that are caused by a mutation in a single gene, migraines are thought to be caused by mutations in multiple genes…Recent research has identified more than 50 genes that may have a role in contributing. “

Khan describes migraines as a “predisposition” – meaning someone has the necessary basic predisposition, but the onset of symptoms stems from a trigger, and this can vary. However, the fact that migraines run in families can be helpful when it comes to diagnosing the condition in very young children.

For example, treat an 18-month-old: “Baby had unbearable crying, restless crying fits every few hours. It wasn’t until they were 18 months that we thought, ‘Okay, that might be a migraine,’ because they have A very strong family history of migraines, Khan recalls.“Once we started using the right medications to help control it, it helped.”

Why is diagnosis important

Excessive screen time may be the cause

Managing a migraine isn’t necessarily the same as managing other types of headaches, so it’s important to get a proper diagnosis. This may mean asking your doctor for a referral to a specialist, especially if your child has frequent episodes and may need medication to help prevent them (Khan explains that there are two main medication options — to prevent migraines and treat symptoms).

However, even if a migraine is diagnosed, Khan does not automatically “jump on to treatment or medication.”

He says, “The first thing we do is understand lifestyle/environmental factors, and there are four things we focus on for parents. Number one is comfort – sleep duration and consistency must be maintained. If a 10-year-old sleeps only six hours, it will lead to Migraines occur.A 10-year-old wants at least 10 hours of sleep.Secondly, they need to drink plenty of water to try to have at least seven to eight cups a day – about two liters.

Three types of foods can sometimes trigger migraines. The usual culprits are the four: cheese, chocolate, citrus, and coffee. I always ask do they have any of these excessively. And finally, screen time. At least two hours before bed, avoid screens, because screens suppress the hormone melatonin, which makes you sleepy.”

Keeping a diary of symptoms can help families identify specific triggers affecting their child, Khan notes — he says it’s a good idea to take this with your appointments — and you can ask your doctor for advice about food triggers. “Once these things are adjusted, we’re talking about medications,” Khan says.

Stress can also be a factor – especially for teens. Khan recommends keeping this in mind – for the general well-being, he thinks it’s helpful for kids to have enough time to stop, too.

Kids need to relax too

“Maybe try some relaxation techniques, like meditation, time without screens, and give them tips on how to calm down,” he suggests. “And I see a lot of strict schedules; badminton practice, then tennis, hardly an hour a day doing nothing. We all need time to do what we feel like and relax.”

Could my child have a brain tumor?

It’s also important to see your doctor so you can rule out other conditions. The possibility of developing a brain tumor can be a source of great fear for parents when children suffer from chronic headaches.

Fortunately, brain tumors are rare – but it’s always best to tell your doctor if he’s concerned. says Dr. David Jenkinson, chief scientific officer of The Brain Tumor Charity.

“Headaches are of course very common, and it can be really hard to distinguish brain tumor symptoms from other, more likely conditions, such as migraines – but it is essential to pay attention to persistent headaches that occur most days, especially upon waking. Affected children are likely to suffer Headaches caused by a brain tumor may also have other symptoms, such as nausea, abnormal growth, decreased consciousness, or seizures.”

The charity’s new Better Safe Than Tumor campaign aims with this particular concern, and Jenkinson says her website has a range of useful tools, including a symptom checker (headmart.org.uk).