Migraines are a type of recurring headache that involves blood vessels, nerves, and brain chemicals. One type of migraine has no preceding aura. The other type comes with an aura. Auras are sensations that come before a migraine headache occurs. They commonly include visual changes, or numbness and tingling.
Migraine headaches can affect a child’s performance in school, relationships with friends and family, and other factors in a child’s life.
The precise reason that a child is susceptible to migraines is unknown. Factors that may play a role include:
Factors that can trigger a migraine include:
Migraines are more common in males. However, it is more common in females after puberty. The average age of onset is 7 years old (boys) and 10 years old (girls).
Factors that increase your child’s chance of migraines may include:
Migraines occur in phases that may include:
A warning may come before a migraine. In the hours or days before the headache, symptoms may include:
The most common aura is visual. The aura lasts about 15-30 minutes. It may produce the following sensations:
Migraine pain starts within an hour of the aura ending. Symptoms include:
You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your child may also be given a neurological exam. The diagnosis is often based on your child's symptoms. To rule out other complications, your doctor may order imaging tests such as:
The doctor may order blood tests or other tests before starting treatment.
Migraine therapy aims to:
Treatment options include:
Medications often used as first line agents in children with headaches include:
Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving your child aspirin.
Your child's doctor may also recommend migraine medication.
Therapy may also be used to reduce the length and frequency of migraine headaches. It may be used with or without medication and may include cognitive behavioral therapy, biofeedback, or relaxation methods.
To help your child during a migraine:
Keep a diary to understand what factors may trigger your child's migraines.
Some steps that may help prevent future migraines includes:
American Headache Society
The National Migraine Association
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Headache in children. National Headache Foundation website. Available at: http://www.headaches.org/education/Headache_Topic_Sheets/Headache_in_Children. Published October 25, 2007. Accessed September 15, 2015.
Migraine in children and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T255012/Migraine-in-children-and-adolescents. Updated September 19, 2016. Accessed September 25, 2016.
Migraines. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/migraines. Updated April 2014. Accessed September 15, 2015.
8/27/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114773/Headache: Robberstad L, Dyb G, Hagen K, Stovner LJ, Holmen TL, Zwart JA. An unfavorable lifestyle and recurrent headaches among adolescents: The HUNT Study. Neurology. 2010;75(8):712-717.
10/25/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T255012/Migraine-in-children-and-adolescents: Bruijn J, Locher H, Passchier J, Dijkstra N, Arts WF. Psychopathology in children and adolescents with migraine in clinical studies: a systematic review. Pediatrics. 2010;126(2):323-332.
1/2/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T259238/Migraine-prophylaxis-in-children-and-adolescents: Powers SW, Kashikar-Zuck SM, et al. Cognitive behavioral therapy plus amitriptyline for chronic migraine in children and adolescents: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA. 2013;310(24):2622-2630.
1/2/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T255012/Migraine-in-children-and-adolescents: Huquet A, McGrath PJ, Stinson J, Tougas ME, Doucette S. Efficacy of psychological treatment for headaches: an overview of systematic reviews and analysis of potential modifiers of treatment efficacy. Clin J Pain. 2014;30(4):353-369.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Kari Kassir, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.