When Your Child Has a Headache
Kids and Migraines
Nov. 12, 2001 -- One day, Tyler Upchurch was just a regular kid
growing up in Muskogee, Okla. The next day, things were very different.
"He woke up and said he had a really bad headache,"
recalls his dad, Bill. "It just came on all of sudden."
That headache lasted every single day -- every hour -- for six
"It was pretty scary," Tyler tells WebMD.
"You don't know what to think," says Bill. "All
these possibilities run through your mind ... brain tumor, you just don't know
what. It worried us to death."
They tried the family physician, the hospital emergency room, a
neurologist, then a child neurologist referred Tyler to Diamond Headache Clinic
in Chicago, where the boy finally got the treatment he needed.
Tyler, his parents were told, was suffering from a rare form of
A Migraine Pioneer
Kids, of course, will try practically anything to get out of
school -- the mysterious stomachaches, etc. Even Tyler's emergency room
physician didn't take the boy's headaches seriously.
And that's the way it is for many children battling migraines.
Their families -- even their doctors -- "ignore the headaches as passing
phases of childhood or attention-getting behavior," writes Seymour Diamond,
MD, author of the newly released book Headache and Your Child.
He's considered a legend in migraine treatment. Founder and
director of the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago -- the largest and oldest
private headache clinic in the U.S. -- he is author of over 300 scientific
papers and more than 20 books on headache.
Diamond has been studying migraines for more than 30 years --
and not just professionally: His two daughters developed migraines when they
hit puberty; his mother-in-law also "had headaches all the time," says
daughter Merle, now a neurologist and associate director of the Diamond
Headache Clinic. "We were a headachy family," she says.
Back then -- in the 1960s and '70s -- migraine sufferers didn't
get any respect from doctors, she says.
"Migraine was not a valid neurological complaint," she
says. Even in medical school, she remembers a neurologist saying, 'Your dad
takes care of crazy people.' "
"My dad has done more to open doors for migraine patients
-- for all patients with headaches -- in getting proper diagnosis and
treatment," she says. "He took criticism for quite a few years. He went
out on a limb, said this is something real, and patients need to be
The problem was, "we didn't have effective treatments,"
she says. "When doctors don't have effective treatments, they make it the
patient's fault. They say quit your job -- you'll be OK if you have less stress
in your life -- instead of recognizing it as a genetic disorder that creates
Truth is, migraine is a hereditary disease; if one parent has
migraines, the children each have a 50% chance having them. And if both parents
suffer, a child has 75% likelihood. While gene therapy has not been developed
for migraine, there are some "marvelous migraine medications," Diamond