Your Child's Headaches May Be Migraines

Children's headaches are usually tension-related, and migraines are often inherited.
Children's headaches are usually tension-related, and migraines are often inherited.
Tom Le Goff/Valueline/Thinkstock

If you've ever experienced a migraine as an adult, you know how painful it is — and how it can wreak havoc with your work and social life. Unfortunately, children also suffer from migraines, but they often go untreated because children are unable to describe the pain, or their parents assume they are having an "everyday-type" of headache.

Not All Headaches Are Alike

A headache is characterized by some type of head pain or other symptoms, but there are different kinds of headaches with their own set of causes and treatments. In many cases, when people think about headaches, they often think of adults, not kids. However, most children experience some type of headache by the time they reach high school — and often for the same reasons as adults.

Fortunately, only a small percentage of childhood headaches are due to disease, such as a tumor, or a head injury. The facts show that most childhood headaches are tension-induced, either from stress or a lack of sleep. Some headaches are due to certain types of food, or to environmental factors (perfumes, dry heat, etc.).

Though headaches in children are rare, 20 percent of kids between the ages of five and 17 years regularly suffer with some type of headache. Three-quarters of these young headache-sufferers have tension-type headaches; the other 5 percent have migraines.

What's a Migraine?

It's often referred to as a vascular headache since it is induced by blood vessels narrowing or expanding. This action can result in head pain, or other symptoms such as balance or vision difficulties.

Most children who suffer with migraines have inherited them. If migraines run in your family, be on the lookout to see if your child experiences car or motion sickness. This may be an early indicator that he or she will develop migraines later.

Migraines may be diagnosed in children as young as 4 years of age. Studies have shown that most boys who develop migraines will outgrow them. Unfortunately, the frequency of migraines may increase in teenage girls due to hormonal changes.