Skip to Content

Migraine Headache In Children, Ambulatory Care


A migraine

is a severe headache. The pain can be so severe that it interferes with your child's daily activities. A migraine can last a few hours up to several days. The exact cause of migraines is not known.

Warning signs that your child's migraine headache is about to start:

  • Mood changes, irritability, or lack of interest in doing usual activities
  • Unusual fatigue or frequent yawning
  • Food cravings or increased thirst
  • Visual changes (often called auras) such as blurred vision, colors, blind spots, or bright spots
  • Tingling or numbness in an arm or leg

Common signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Pounding, pulsing, or throbbing pain on one or both sides of your child's head
  • Nausea, vomiting, or abdominal pain
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Noise or ringing in your child's ears
  • Dizziness or confusion

Seek immediate care for the following symptoms:

  • A seizure
  • A severe headache with a fever or a stiff neck
  • New problems with vision, balance, or movement
  • Vomiting that does not stop
  • Migraine pain that is the worst your child has ever had

Treatment for a migraine headache:

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give to your child and how often he should take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • Antinausea medicine may be given to calm your child's stomach and to help prevent vomiting. The medicine may also help relieve pain.
  • Medicines to help prevent migraine headaches may be given to your child for a period of time.

Manage your child's symptoms:

  • Have your child rest in a dark, quiet room.
  • Apply ice on your child's head for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps decreases pain.
  • Keep a headache diary. Write down when your child's migraines start and stop. Keep track of how often he gets migraine headaches. Ask your child to describe the pain and where it hurts. Write down the number of days that you gave your child pain medicine to treat his migraine. If your child has caffeine, write down how often he has it. Write down anything else that seems to trigger his headaches. Bring this log with you each time your child sees his healthcare provider.

Help your child prevent another migraine headache:

  • Help your child get enough sleep. Your child should get 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night. Your child should have a set sleep schedule. He should go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. It may be helpful for your child to do something relaxing before he goes to sleep. He should avoid watching television right before bed.
  • Encourage your child to get regular physical activity. Regular physical activity may help to prevent a migraine headache and reduce the number of headaches. Most experts recommend 1 hour of physical activity each day. Help your child get at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week.
  • Encourage your child to eat regular meals. Have your child eat 3 meals and 1 to 2 snacks each day at regular times. Include healthy foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meat, and fish. Do not let your child have foods that trigger his migraines.
  • Encourage your child to drink plenty of liquids. Your child's healthcare provider may recommend 8 to 12 cups each day. Make sure these drinks do not contain caffeine. Caffeine can trigger migraines and disrupt his sleep pattern.
  • Help your child manage stress. Stress can trigger migraine headaches. It may helpful to allow your child time to relax after school each day. Consider decreasing the amount of activities your child is involved in if these activities are causing stress for him. Talk to your child's healthcare provider about other ways to decrease your child's stress.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your child's visits.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2017 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.