Auras (vision or other sensory changes) sometimes take place before or during a migraine, and symptoms are temporary. Children may experience:
Tingling, weakness or numbness in the arms or legs
Smelling strange odors
Flashing lights, colors, jagged lines or loss of vision in one eye
A migraine can last a few hours or a few days.
Who Gets Migraines?
About 10% of school-age children experience migraines. Before puberty, boys experience them more often than girls. As adolescence approaches, girls experience migraines more than boys. This is thought to be due to hormonal changes in girls, which can trigger a migraine.
The cause of migraines is not known, but genetics and environmental factors have been shown to play a part. Children are more likely to inherit the condition if they have a parent who has migraines.
Stress and being overly tired are the two most common triggers of migraines in children. Certain food and drink, including chocolate, cheese, nuts, shellfish, sugar and caffeine, are also triggers.
The following can decrease migraine suffering – even more than medicine.
Keep aregular routine (school, meals and activities).
Get enough sleep. Teenagers require eight hours of continuous sleep. Younger children need even more. Children six and up should not nap, as too much sleep can also cause a headache.
Serve well-balanced meals and snacks at regular times. Don’t let your child skip meals. And breakfast is still the most important meal of the day.
Drink plenty of fluids. Children need at least 64 ounces per day.
Exercise at least three times per week. Exercise improves brain function and has been shown to decrease migraines.
Some research indicates that migraine sufferers have a magnesium or serotonin deficiency. Speak with your doctor to see if a supplement is recommended for your child.
Treating a Migraine
There are several things you can do at home to treat your child’s migraine.
Give your child ibuprofen every six hours. Taking more than two doses in a week for a few months may lead to more headaches. See your doctor if your child needs medicine this often. Do not give your child aspirin unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
Have your child lie down or sleep until the headache is gone.
Apply a cool or warm compress to your child’s forehead.
When Should My Child See a Doctor?
Children who have frequent headaches or migraines despite a healthy lifestyle and regular routine should see their pediatrician.
To learn more about the Headache Clinic at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, click here.
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