A migraine is a severe, generally one-sided, type of headache. The symptoms are often accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound, nausea and vomiting. About 15 to 20 percent of those with migraine develop warning signs (called an aura) before the onset of the headache. Typical aura symptoms include the appearance of flashing lights, zigzag lines or other visual disturbances.
According to the National Headache Foundation, about 29.5 million Americans have migraine headaches. The symptoms can last for up to 72 hours (sometimes longer) and occur sporadically or daily. Patients are often very debilitated during a migraine and may close themselves off in a quiet, dark room until the symptoms subside.
Migraines in Kids
Many people think migraines are an adult problem. However, the condition can occur in children, too. The Migraine Research Foundation estimates up to 10 percent of children in the U.S. have migraines. Half of them have their first attack of symptoms before 12. Migraines have even been reported in children as young as 18 months. At younger ages, migraines are more common in boys. However, by adolescence, incidence becomes more common in girls. For many females, migraines are commonly triggered by hormone changes associated with the menstrual cycle.
Diagnosis of migraines in children can be tricky. Children typically don't have the same type of symptoms as adults. The head pain may be two-sided and not as severe as an adult migraine. Children are more likely to experience nausea, vomiting abdominal pain or dizziness in association with a migraine.
Dealing with Childhood Migraines
The Migraine Research Foundation estimates children who have migraines miss an average of 7.8 days from school each year (compared to 3.7 for the average child without migraines). Noah Rosen, M.D., Neurologist/Psychiatrist with The Headache Center in Manhasset, NY says teachers, administrators and other students often don't understand the significance of migraine symptoms. However, as with adults, migraines in children can be debilitating. When symptoms last more than a day, or are frequent, it can be very difficult for a child to keep up with schoolwork.
Currently, there are no migraine medications specifically approved for children. So doctors may need to carefully explore drug options, weighing risks of potential side effects against benefits of pain relief or prevention. Families can also take steps to reduce the risk for migraines:
- Eat regular meals/do not skip a meal.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Keep a regular sleep schedule.
- Exercise daily.
Rosen is also creating a migraine awareness campaign for students and school nurses. The goal is to have materials available for download that can be used to educate teachers, administrators and students about the prevalence and severity of migraine in school children.
Research compiled and edited by Barbara J. Fister
American Headache Society, http://www.achenet.org
American Migraine Foundation, http://www.americanmigrainefoundation.org
Migraine Research Foundation, http://migraineresearchfoundation.org
National Headache Foundation, http://www.headaches.org
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, http://www.ninds.nih.gov