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Migraine in Children: Recognizing Symptoms and Effective Treatment Approaches

Post written by BFH Staff Writer on June 3, 2024
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Migraines aren’t just an adult issue; children can also suffer from these painful headaches. Understanding the symptoms and knowing effective treatments is crucial for parents and caregivers. This guide covers how to recognize kids’ migraine symptoms and explores various treatments to alleviate their discomfort.

Understanding Migraines in Children

What is a Migraine?

Migraines are a type of neurological condition that is known for causing severe, pulsating headaches, usually together with symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Although migraines are often thought of as an adult health issue, they are also quite common in children and teenagers.

Prevalence of Migraine in Children 

Approximately 10% of school-aged children suffer from migraines, with prevalence increasing with age. This condition often begins to manifest in early childhood, with the incidence rising as children approach adolescence. By the time they reach their teenage years, migraines are significantly more common in girls than boys, a disparity that is believed to be influenced by hormonal changes during puberty. 

Migraines in children can be particularly debilitating, impacting their academic performance, social engagements, and overall quality of life. Factors such as genetics, environmental triggers, and stress also contribute to the frequency and severity of migraine attacks in this age group. Early diagnosis and management are crucial to help mitigate these impacts and improve the well-being of affected children.

Recognizing Symptoms of Migraine in Children

Below are some of the common and unique symptoms among children suffering from migraine:

Common Symptoms

  • Throbbing or Pulsating Headache: Often on one side of the head.
  • Nausea and Vomiting: Common in children during migraines.
  • Light and Sound Sensitivity: Bright lights and loud noises can worsen the pain.
  • Abdominal Pain: Sometimes mistaken for other ailments.
  • Paleness and Fatigue: Children may appear unusually pale and tired.

Unique Pediatric Symptoms

  • Irritability and Mood Changes: Sudden mood swings and irritability.
  • Dizziness and Vertigo: Common during migraines.
  • Visual Disturbances: Blurred vision, spots, or flashing lights.

Effective Treatment Approaches for Migraine in Children

The following are some of the medical, non-medical, and preventive treatments for children with migraine:

Medical Treatments

  • Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers: Acetaminophen and ibuprofen (consult a pediatrician first) can be used as migraine medicine for kids.
  • Prescription Medications: Triptans or other migraine-specific drugs for severe cases.
  • Anti-Nausea Medications: To manage prominent nausea and vomiting.

Non-Medical Treatments

  • Lifestyle Changes: Regular sleep schedule, healthy diet, and regular exercise.
  • Behavioral Therapy: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga.
  • Environmental Modifications: Limiting screen time and creating a quiet, dark space during a migraine.

Preventive Measures

  • Identifying Triggers: Keeping a migraine diary to identify potential triggers.
  • Regular Medical Checkups: Monitoring and managing the condition with a healthcare provider.

When to Seek Medical Help

Seek medical attention if migraines occur more than twice a month, if pain does not respond to medication, or if there are neurological symptoms such as confusion, loss of consciousness, or persistent vision changes.


Migraines in children can be distressing, but with proper recognition and treatment, their impact can be minimized. By understanding the symptoms and implementing effective treatment approaches, parents and caregivers can help children manage migraines effectively and improve their quality of life. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How to Treat Migraines in a Child?

Treating migraines in children often involves a combination of over-the-counter pain relievers, prescribed medications for severe cases, and non-medical treatments such as maintaining a regular sleep schedule, a healthy diet, and using relaxation techniques.

What Are the Common Triggers for Migraines in Children?

Common triggers include stress, certain foods (like chocolate or cheese), dehydration, irregular sleep patterns, as well as various environmental factors such as bright lights or loud noises. Furthermore, keeping a migraine diary can help you identify and avoid these triggers.

When Should I Seek Medical Attention for My Child’s Migraines?

Seek medical attention if your child’s migraines occur more than twice a month if the pain does not respond to over-the-counter medications, or if there are severe symptoms like confusion, loss of consciousness, or persistent vision changes. It is also recommended to have regular checkups with a doctor.

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