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Does My Child Have Migraine?

09 August 2018

Migraine often starts in childhood, roughly 10% of school age children have migraine. In adults the condition is more prevalent in women than in men but in children the gender difference is less pronounced although boys suffer slightly more than girls up to puberty. Thereafter, girls have it!

In adults, the key migraine symptom tends to be a headache but in children this is not always the case. People forget that migraine although a neurological disorder affects the gut as well.

Migraine attacks tend to be shorter and less frequent in children than in adults.

If your child:
• feels sick and might be vomiting
• has a throbbing headache (usually symmetrical and in the forehead )
• is listless and just doesn’t want to do anything
• has recurring tummy pain
• voluntarily wants to lie down, often somewhere quiet
• is sensitive to light and noise and possibly smell
• started feeling dizzy

If these symptoms recur then migraine is possibly the cause. If the child is prone to car sickness and especially if a close family member has been diagnosed with migraine then it’s almost certain the child has migraine. The proof is to be found in a migraine diary. Arguably some element of childhood prevalence arises from misunderstanding and misdiagnosis, a headache is not a prerequisite symptom for a migraine diagnosis.

Often a migraine attack starts with a child:
• feeling tired (for no immediately apparent reason)
• yawning a lot
• becoming irritable
• seeking isolation (to remove stimulation)

The more detailed the migraine diary the better. Include possible triggers, frequency of meal times, activities undertaken etc. This of course does require the child to reveal all and quite possibly some children may be a little reluctant to admit to everything they get up to.

Children being children often do not eat regularly or indeed quite what you expected. Missing and or delaying meals is bad news from a migraine perspective. Not drinking enough doesn’t help either.
A very good way to get a migraine might be to stay up late, surreptitiously or not, miss or skimp on breakfast, not eat a well-balanced lunch then have a double games period on a hot day. All of which is in theory at least manageable.

It is of course much better to manage migraine without recourse to drugs but sometimes this isn’t possible.

We are very keen to learn about your experiences, please email us at info@nationalmigrainecentre.org.uk and tell us about your children’s experiences.


Read our factsheet on ‘Migraine In Children and Adolescents’.

Read our factsheet ‘Migraine: Advice to Schools’.

Click here to book a consultation with a headache specialist doctor.

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