by Marjorie Montemayor-Quellenberg, MA
Migraines are a severe type headache that involves blood vessels, nerves, and brain chemicals. It recurs often. Auras are sensations that come before a migraine occurs. One type of migraine has no aura before it starts. The other type comes with an aura. Auras often include visual changes, or numbness and tingling.
Migraines can affect a child’s performance in school. It can also effect relationships with friends and family. Medicine should be started as soon as symptoms appear. This will lessen the length of the migraine. Early treatment can also reduce the time with symptoms.
Specific genes appear to be associated with migraines. These genes tend to run in families.
Other causes may include:
Many times, the exact cause may remain unknown.
Some factors that can trigger a migraine include:
Risk Factors TOP
Migraines are more common in:
Factors that increase your child’s chance of migraines may include:
Migraines may 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:
Not all migraines will have warning signs or auras.
The Migraine Headache TOP
Migraine pain starts within an hour of the aura ending. Symptoms include:
A Post-Headache Period TOP
Migraines typically last from 4 to 72 hours. They often go away with sleep. After the headache, your child may experience:
You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Your child will also be given an exam of the nervous system. The diagnosis is usually based on your child's symptoms.
Imaging tests may be done if your child's symptoms are severe. The doctor may also want to rule out other conditions. Image tests may include:
The goal of treatment is to:
Treatment includes a combination of therapies which may include:
Medicine is the first treatment option for migraines. The type of medicine will depend on how severe the headaches are. Your child’s response will also be tracked.
Most medicine will be taken by mouth. It may need to be given through IV for severe migraines. An IV may also help if there is vomiting.
Therapy can promote relaxation. It may also improve the ability to cope with pain. Either way it has been shown to reduce the how often migraines occur and how long they last. It may be used with or without migraine medicine. Therapy options include:
Other Treatment During the Migraine TOP
Home care that may help during a migraine include:
Preventing Migraines TOP
Some steps that may help prevent future migraines includes:
Foods are not proven to trigger migraine. Consider keeping track of what your child eats. Foods suspected by some to trigger migraine include:
If your child has severe or frequent migraines the doctor may recommend medicine. This medicine is given regularly to prevent or decrease migraines. Medicines that have been used for migraine prevention in children include:
Each of these medicines also carry some risk. Discuss the benefits and risks of these options for your child.
There are no current steps that change your child’s susceptibility to migraines.
American Headache Society
The National Migraine Association
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Headache in children. National Headache Foundation website. Available at:
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1/2/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed... : 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.
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Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD
Last Updated: 7/12/2018
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