Juvenile Migraines

MH900431113.JPGMigraines are headaches that come back again and again; these headaches are very painful and throbbing. Typically, children with migraines have a severe headache located around the eyes, in front of the head, or in the temples.  Some children experience vision changes (auras) during a headache.  In addition, some children may feel nauseated, and actually vomit.  Bright lights, loud noises and strong odors can make headaches worse. Experts believe that during a migraine, a spasm occurs in the arteries at the base of the brain.  This along with a release of serotonin, reduces blood flow to the brain, which in turn causes arteries in and around the brain to widen.  The widening of the arteries is a response to the brain’s need for energy and oxygen, thus causing release of pain-producing chemicals.

Migraines tend to run in families; children have a 50-75% chance of having migraines if their parents do. They can occur in children as young as 3 years old.  Boys tend to begin having migraines at ages 7 or 8, but girls usually start a couple of years later.  According to WebMD, 56% of boys and 74% of girls between the ages of 12 and 17 reported having a headache within the last month.  By age 15, 5% of all children and adolescents have had migraines, and 15% have had tension headaches. Prevalence of migraines increases during adolescent and young adult years (20-30% of young women and 10-20% of young men have migraines).  Migraines are 3 times more likely in adolescent girls than boys. 

 The causes of migraines aren’t fully understood, but there do seem to be some common triggers.  Women and teen girls tend to have migraines during their menstrual cycles when estrogen levels are high.  Stress and kids who are overscheduled with activities can also set off migraines.  Disrupted eating and sleep patterns, as well as foods high in nitrates (chocolate, cheese and hot dogs) can also contribute to migraines.

 Headaches often affect how well a child performs in school.  Headaches may interfere with participation in school activities and can be a significant health problem.  The most common contributing factor in the development of migraines in school children is the tension of the school year. Students with migraines also point to other triggers, such as peer problems, noisy classrooms and bright lights.  About 65-80% of children with migraines interrupt their normal activities because of the symptoms.  Students have difficulty concentrating because of the pain in their heads.  Students with frequent migraines often miss several days of school each month, thus putting them farther behind in their studies.  This, in turn, causes additional stress, which then can contribute to another migraine.

 If your child has migraine headaches, make sure that you clearly communicate that with his/ her teacher.  If medication is to be given, be sure to contact the school administration so that medication can be successfully and accurately administered.  If a child in class feels a migraine coming on, find them a quiet place to take a break, rest and close their eyes, and hopefully lessen or prevent the headache.  Allow them to return to class when they feel that they are ready.