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Migraine Headache In Children

What is a migraine headache?

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.

What can trigger a migraine headache?

  • Stress, eye strain, oversleeping, or not getting enough sleep
  • Hormone changes during a monthly period or from birth control pills in adolescent girls
  • Skipping meals, going too long without eating, or not drinking enough liquids
  • Certain foods such as cheese, chocolate, citrus fruits, processed meats, and drinks that contain caffeine
  • Sunlight, bright or flashing lights, loud noises, smoke, or strong smells
  • Heat, humidity, or changes in the weather

What are the warning signs that a 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

What signs and symptoms may occur with a migraine headache?

  • 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

How is migraine headache diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will ask questions about your child's headaches. He will ask about any medical conditions your child has or that run in the family. He may also ask about any recent stressors that your child has had at home or school. Your child may also need any of the following:

  • A neurologic exam may be done. Your child's healthcare provider will check how your child's pupils react to light. He may check your child's memory and his hand grasp and balance.
  • An MRI or a CT may be done to find the cause of your child's migraine headache. Your child may be given contrast liquid so his brain shows up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if your child has ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if your child has any metal in or on his body.

How is a migraine headache treated?

  • 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.

How can I manage my 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.

How can I help my 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.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child's migraine headaches do not improve or get worse, even with treatment.
  • You child's migraines occur in the morning with or without vomiting.
  • Your child's migraine pain wakes him up from sleep.
  • Your child's migraine pain gets worse when he coughs, urinates, or has a bowel movement.
  • Your child has regular migraine pain in the same area.
  • You notice a change in your child's personality.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • Your child has a seizure.
  • Your child has a severe headache with a fever or a stiff neck.
  • Your child has new problems with vision, balance, or movement.
  • Your child's vomiting does not stop.
  • Your child describes his migraine pain as the worst he has ever had.

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.

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