Your Child's Headaches May Be Migraines

Child Headache Symptoms

What Are the Symptoms, Doc?

If you suspect your child suffers from migraines, here's what to look for:

  • Pain on both sides of the head (especially in younger children).
  • One-sided head pain (especially in older children).
  • Recurrent vomiting.
  • Frequent unexplained dizzy spells.
  • Recurring abdominal pain.
  • Increased eye tearing.
  • Visual changes.

When it comes to migraines, children are different. Some may have one or more of the above complaints.

How You Can Help Your Child

Keep a diary of the following information and share it with your child's pediatrician:

  • How many headaches does your child have a week?
  • Where is the headache located?
  • How painful is the headache?
  • How long does the headache last?
  • Do any foods, drinks or activities seem to set them off?
  • Does your child's headaches affect his/her normal activity?

My Child Has a Migraine

There are many non-drug therapies, including stress management and biofeedback, to help alleviate migraine headaches in children and teens. These approaches may work alone or in combination with the proper medication. To help your child feel better, it's important that he or she eats healthy foods, stays in a good sleep routine, and gets enough exercise.

As for medication, most children feel better with acetaminophen (Tylenol and other brands), as well as anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen. But if these drugs don't relieve your child's pain within several hours, you may need prescription medication. Some drugs are used to prevent or lessen the frequency of migraines, while others are used for immediate pain relief.

Thankfully, we now have many non-narcotic (nonaddicting) options to choose from. Also, children who suffer with frequent headaches may develop anxiety and depression. So it's important to recognize this early, to educate them as to why they get headaches, and to reassure them that nothing is growing inside their brains.

Copyright 2003, Dr. Rob Danoff Robert Danoff, D.O., M.S., is a family physician. He is program director of Family Practice Residency Frankford Hospitals, Jefferson Health System, Philadelphia, Pa. He also is a medical correspondent for The Comcast Network, CN8, contributing writer to the New York Times and writes a weekly medical column for the Bucks Courier Times, Bucks County Pa.

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