How to Recognize Migraines in Children

Anyone who’s experienced a migraine knows what the pain is like. Knowing that children get them too with the same severity, is heartbreaking. 1 in 5 children and teens are prone to headaches, with around 5% struggling with migraines as young as four. Children and teens may react differently than adults when a migraine hits, so it may be challenging to recognize when it’s a headache or a migraine. The last thing a child should worry about is a migraine, so learning how to recognize them in your child is an important step in getting the help needed.

Pediatric migraines, young boy holding head, sad. clinical research studies

Children’s Migraine Symptoms

Physical and chemical changes in the brain and genes have been linked to causing migraines. They typically develop in stages:

  1. Warning– Fatigue, stiff neck, and mood changes.
  2. Aura– Dizziness, weakness, confusion, and seeing spots.
  3. The Attack– When the severe, pulsating pain of the migraine hits. Nausea and vomiting may occur too.
  4. Resolution– Sleep ends the pain for some children.
  5. Recovery– Fatigue can last hours or days.

Children and teens can have the classic predominate pain reaction of a migraine, but other symptoms exhibited are:

  • Vomiting and stomach pain
  • Pain on both sides of the head with sensitivity to lights and sounds
  • Are shorter in duration than adults

When to Get Help and What to Expect

Children and teens can get headaches for a variety of reasons. If they are recurring or concern you in any way, they should be evaluated by their doctor. Once other serious causes are ruled out, your provider can diagnose through family and medical history, imaging tests, bloodwork, or a neurological exam.

Lifestyle changes to include healthy eating and sleep habits can reduce the frequency or severity of migraines. Eating consistent healthy meals during the day, staying hydrated, keeping active, and improving sleep hygiene are recommended. Your child may be prescribed medication to help at the onset of a migraine or a preventative to reduce the frequency and severity of migraines.

Young boy holding head, pediatric migraines

More work is needed to understand migraines better, so more effective prevention options and treatments can be found. Clinical research studies and their volunteers make those advancements possible. While the ultimate goal is to prevent every child from suffering through a migraine, age-specific treatments are needed to improve their management. If your child is suffering from migraines, research studies may be an option. To learn more about the pediatric migraine studies enrolling here at ForCare, call (813) 264-2155 or visit our website.