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Migraines in Children and Teens

Migraines in Children and Teens

Migraines in Children and Teens

Migraines are a common condition in both adults and children.  More than half of adults who get migraine headaches experienced their first migraine before 12 years of age.  

Migraine headaches differ from other common causes of headaches and are often more severe.  

Migraine symptoms may include: 

  • Throbbing headache, often on 1 side of the head 
  • Pain worsens with activity 
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Sensitivity, or worsening headache, to light or noise 
  • Migraine Aura 

Migraine Aura usually occurs up to 1 hour before the headache or migraine occurs.  It may include dizziness, weakness, numbness, tingling sensation, seeing lights, lines, or other visual disturbances.  

In some rare cases of migraine with aura a child or teen may experience more significant visual symptoms including temporary, one sided blurry vision, blind spot, or even vision loss.  This is referred to as an Ocular or Retinal Migraine.  Treatment and prevention are the same as a migraine with aura.  

Any child can have migraines, but it is most common in teenage girls, after the onset of puberty.  Migraines also tend to run in families.  If a parent has migraines, it is much more likely that the child will experience them at some time during childhood or adolescence.  


Prevention and avoiding common triggers.  

If your child has a history of migraine headaches, it is important to emphasize a good sleep routine, nutrition, and hydration.  

Keeping regular routines including a regular sleep and eating schedule is important.  

Avoid skipping meals and high sugar drinks such as soda and juices.  Always encourage lots of water for hydration.  

Certain foods are more likely to trigger migraines, including chocolate, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, aged meats and cheeses, MSG, and some red and yellow food dyes.  

Stress, weather changes, menstrual cycles, and bright sunlight can also trigger migraine symptoms.   



Rest, including sleep or laying down in a quiet and dark room, may be helpful when symptoms start. 

Over-the-counter (OTC) pain reducers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) given at the onset of the migraine can also be helpful.  

In adolescents and adults’ combination medications for migraines which include the above pain medication as well as small doses of caffeine are sometimes recommended.   

Medications containing aspirin should not be used in children without first discussing it with your pediatrician. 

Prescription medications called Triptans can also be used in children and teens when the migraines are not controlled with rest/sleep and OTC treatment alone.  

There are also several types of preventative medications that are sometimes prescribed for children and teens who have frequent or particularly severe migraines.   


What to do if I think my child has migraines? 

Start making a headache diary to document when the headaches occur, other symptoms, possible triggers, as well as what made the headache better or worse. 

Try treating mild headaches or migraines with Tylenol or Advil and increasing fluid intake.  

Call your pediatrician to schedule an appointment to discuss your concerns about headaches/migraines. 

Seek immediate medical attention for sudden severe headache or head pain occurring for the first time or any headache with: double vision, difficulty waking the child up, balance problems, persistent or projectile vomiting, confusion, numbness, or stiff neck and fever.  



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