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Migraines – they hit when you least expect them, especially your children. If there was a difference between a headache and a migraine, it’s just that they’re much worse than you think.
Your child’s migraines may last anywhere from 30 minutes to 6 hours, and sometimes around 24 to 72 hours as well! These headaches are often dismissed by many in schools and society, which is why it is extra important to be aware of them since they affect children’s academic lives and daily productivity. The quality of their lifestyle is compromised when care is not exercised in the case of these headaches.
We’ll cover what exactly you need to know about migraine headaches, diet and nutrition, and what you can do to prevent them in the first place. Here’s what you need to know about severe headaches in children.
What is Migraine?
Migraines occur when there’s a change in neurological activity in the brain, interfering with normal thinking patterns as a result of complex neurological alternations. Your child’s headache may occur once a month, once a week, or even once a year. A chronic migraine impairs children’s activities and is denoted by 15 to more headaches a month. Kids who have parents with a history of the ailment have a 50% chance of developing Migraine headaches over the course of their childhood.
How common is a Migraine in kids?
Migraines are very common in children and especially for girls who are going through physiological changes due to puberty. The headache manifests in different ways in children based on their age and is denoted by its sudden onset. Boys are likely to get a Migraine even before the age of four while girls go through it due to hormonal changes during puberty. Around 3.5-5% children experience these headaches around the world. Boys experience severe migraines mostly before puberty and infants are prone to this condition from 18 months of age. Children show signs of the ailment through problems related to poor vision, strong odours, increased headaches due to loud noises and often by talking about a sick feeling in the stomach along with extreme sensitivity to light. Infants between the ages of 8 months old to two years old are susceptible to migraines too!
Childhood Migraines causes
The common causes of migraine headaches in children are:
- Puberty and hormonal changes in girls
- Genetics and heredity
- Emotional stress and anticipatory anxiety
- Head trauma or injuries to the head
- Illnesses like the cold and flu
- Infections like ear and sinus infections
- Brain tumours
- Foods and beverages containing nitrates or the additive MSG
- Loud noises and flashing lights
- Chronic depression
- Disturbed sleep patterns
Common Triggers of a Migraine
These headaches have specific triggers which activate them and contribute to increasing intensities. By being aware of these triggers, you will be able to downsize the frequency of Migraines in your kids. The most common triggers in children are:
Irregular Sleep Cycles
Not sleeping and waking up on time results in migraine headaches in children. They can be avoided by fixing sleep schedules and snooze times for kids.
Not drinking sufficient water results in migraine headaches in kids. Ask the school permission for letting your child drink water during classroom hours to prevent them.
Not Eating Enough
Eating junk food or processed foods, sugary snacks, and skipping meals contribute to migraines. Feed your child nutritious snacks in between meals and make their diets healthy to prevent occurrences. Long breaks between eating hours may also lead to headaches in kids.
Sudden bouts of exercise or overexerting muscles lead to migraines in kids. Make sure your child is hydrated before exercising and limit exercise hours to regular chunks every day rather than going on temporary bouts or exercise binges,
Changes in the Environment
From flashing lights, loud noises, and changes in the weather, children experience migraines due to these alterations in their environment. Worrying about environmental changes also leads to anticipatory anxiety which causes migraines.
Flickering And Glare
Computer screens sometimes flicker and contribute to glare which triggers migraines. Tell your child to take frequent breaks in between use times when using computers or playing video games for long hours.
Health issues related to abdominal pain, sinus infections, cold and flu cause migraines in children. Abnormally low blood sugar levels and periods cause it as well.
Ask your child to stop grinding their teeth or clenching their jaw to prevent migraines from occurring. Jaw tension causes muscle spasms which act as a trigger for them, which is why we recommend your kids to avoid teeth grinding or jaw clenching.
Migraine Signs And Symptoms In Children
The following are the signs and symptoms of migraine headaches in children:
- Episode “head banging” in infants
- Abdominal pain
- Irritability and bouts of crying
- Seeking dark rooms and avoiding exposure to light
- Sweating too much
- Increased frequency of urination
- Increased intensity of headaches and throbbing in the head
- Increased desire to sleep
Visit your child’s doctors and go for a consultation if you feel your child is experiencing Migraines. Diagnosis ranges from:
- Maintaining a journal of the timing and frequency of migraines along with diet and lifestyle habit journaling which doctors ask for.
- Running brain imaging tests like MRI and CT scans which detect neurological activity and patterns in the brain.
- Diagnosis of signs and symptoms such as recurrent headaches, loss of appetite, and pain on one or both sides of the head along with a follow-up on familial medical history.
Effects of a Migraine on Your Child’s Life
Your child’s Migraine condition severely affects their life and may even disable them during certain activities or moments in everyday life.
Chronic headache bouts may interfere with your child’s school going activities. Your child may fall behind class work which is why it’s important to inform concerned teachers and academic supervisors beforehand so that your child can catch up on schoolwork. Frequent absences are common in children who experience recurring migraine headaches. Lack of focus in classes and not being able to concentrate consistently are other factors which affect children as a result of these headaches.
Children may miss out on social events and be sent home from them due to sudden episodes of Migraines, making them feel left out and different. Mood changes, lack of focus, and irritability are the effects of a migraine which may affect their interactions in social circles. Some children get headaches during weekends when relaxing which may interfere times spent with family and friends.
Children won’t be able to participate in strenuous sports activities due to muscle spasms or twitching as a result of overexerting, which thus leads to migraines. Skipping school and sports activities is common amongst children experiencing these recurring headaches.
Treatment and Management
Knowing specific causes and triggers of migraine headaches leads to the starting point of effective treatment. Journal the features of a headache and note diet and lifestyle routines and you’ll be making progress in migraine management in no time.
The following treatment and management methods work best for these headaches in children:
- Lying in a dark, quiet room, and drifting off to sleep
- Managing strict sleep and wake up times at home
- Using stress management techniques like paced breathing, mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation techniques pertaining to reducing stress and calming the mind
- Eating according to schedules and implementing a balanced diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and essential nutrients.
- Keeping a record of the features and frequency of the attacks to find out specific characteristics of headaches and avoid triggers
- Educating parents and children about the headaches, causes, symptoms, and what can be done to lower their frequency
- Administering analgesics like acetaminophen or ibuprofen and stronger medications like butalbital for severe Migraines
- Cold therapy or placing ice packs on affected arteries or throbbing areas
- Self-hypnosis, listening to soothing music, and guided relaxation exercises related to nonpharmacologic treatment methods aid in Migraine relief
- Specific medications for Migraine prophylaxis such as Riboflavin, Amitriptyline, Propranolol, Anticonvulsants, and tricyclic antidepressants
- Rehydration therapy and sedatives
Beta blockers and agents like Methysergide and Cyproheptadine are most effective for prophylaxis Migraines in children and block the Serotonin 5-HT2 receptors.
If your child is experiencing a sudden onset of migraine, try applying the following home remedies and you’ll see a difference:
- Give your child plenty of rest by allowing them to drift off to sleep during the attacks and massage their neck and shoulders. Apply ice packs to throbbing areas and place moist cloths on parts of the head that hurt.
- Close curtains, reduce noise levels in the room, and allow your child to lie down and sleep or relax in a quiet, dark room
- Hot showers and giving your child certain vitamins like Vitamin B2 supplements, Magnesium medications, and Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) reduces the frequency of Migraines.
You can help your child prevent Migraine headaches and even lower their frequency through the following methods:
- Learn about the triggers, nuances, and features of Migraine headaches and learn how to avoid migrate triggers to avoid headaches in children. Avoid triggers related to light, sound, and smell related to them.
- Consult a doctor immediately and conduct a diagnosis or brain imaging tests to ascertain the type and severity of headaches in your child. Your doctor will also list medication recommendations based on the type of Migraine. Medications are based on children’s ages.
- Create a relaxing and soothing environment at home that’s free from noises and distractions. Comfort your child emotionally and psychologically during a Migraine headache and soothe them through care, love, and warmth. Be gentle and understanding throughout the process.
- Add green leafy vegetable, nuts, seeds, and fruits to your child’s diet. Having a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals will lower the frequency of Migraines and over a period of time – even eliminate them.
- Limit exercise times to small bite-sized chunks and prevent teenagers from participating in high intensity training and strenuous physical activities. Make sure your kids are hydrated before they engage in physical activities and limit the duration and intensity as a precautionary measure.
By understanding the ins and outs of migraine headaches and becoming a loving and caring parent, you can help your child manage headaches whenever they strike, wherever they go. Talk to a doctor or concerned medical specialist to assess your child’s needs and run diagnostics for migraines. The important aspect of treatment is preparing for the long haul and making lifestyle and dietary changes to accommodate treatment methods. Be patient, prevent triggers, maintain diet and sleep cycles, and give your child the correct medications on time and you’ll be on the road to healthy migraine management.