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  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:




A migraine is a moderate to severe type of headache that makes it hard to focus on things like school.


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Specific genes appear to be associated with migraines. These genes tend to run in families. Many times, the exact cause is not known.

Things that are thought to trigger an attack are:

  • Foods that contain tyramine or phenylalanine or that influence blood pressure
  • Hormone changes
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Not getting enough sleep and being very tired
  • Fast changes in temperatures
  • Exposure to light

Risk Factors

Migraines are more common in boys before puberty and girls after puberty. It is also more common in children who have other family members who have migraines.


Migraines often occur in these phases:


You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. The diagnosis is usually based on your child's symptoms.


The goal of treatment is to:

  • Treat headaches early
  • Reduce how severe the headaches are and how often and long they last
  • Improve quality of life

Choices may be:


There are no current steps that can change a child’s likelihood of getting migraines.


In the hours or days before a headache, a child may have these warning signs:

  • A change in mood, behavior, or activity
  • Feeling very tired
  • Food cravings or lack of hunger
  • Nausea or diarrhea
  • Sensitivity to light




  • Green A, Kabbouche M, et al. Managing Migraine Headaches in Children and Adolescents. Expert Rev Clin Pharmacol. 2016;9(3):477-482.
  • Headache in children. National Headache Foundation website. Available at: http://www.headaches.org/2007/10/25/headache-in-children.
  • Migraines. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/migraines.
  • Migraine in children and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/migraine-in-children-and-adolescents.
  • Migraine prophylaxis in children and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T259238/Migraine-prophylaxis-in-children-and-adolescents.
  • Migraine—treatment of status migrainosus in children and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/migraine-treatment-of-status-migrainosus-in-children-and-adolescents.
  • Migraine—treatment of acute attack in children and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/migraine-treatment-of-acute-attack-in-children-and-adolescents.


  • Kari Kuenn, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.