When Your Child Has a Headache
Kids and Migraines
Does Your Child Have Migraines?
Toddlers -- even babies - can develop migraines.
"Parents look back, they realize there were symptoms,"
Diamond says. "But it's not until a child learns to talk -- at age 3 or 4
-- that they can express that their head hurts."
Chronic headaches restrict an adult's lifestyle -- socializing,
working, eating, sleeping, sex -- causing anxiety and depression. But in
children, chronic pain has more far-reaching effects on personality and skill
development, he says.
"Kids don't understand what is going on, they don't know
what to tell people about it," Diamond tells WebMD. "Migraine can cause
depression, withdrawal, psychological problems in children."
Since headaches can develop into a chronic problem, they should
be attacked medically early in life, he says. Your child may not have to take
medication. "Things can be done with and without medicine," says
Head pain in children under age 10 is likely migraine or an
organic disease -- like a brain tumor, he says.
"Nobody should slight or minimize the symptoms of a child
under 10 years old who complains of headache," he says, adding one caveat:
"If someone in the family complains of headaches all the time, the child is
probably mimicking them."
Parents must look for behavioral clues. "The child may be
playing, then all of a sudden stop playing, bring his arms up to his head,"
he says. There may be dizziness, nausea, vomiting, carsickness.
In fact, he says, kids who suffer from carsickness -- even
without headaches -- will likely develop migraines later in life.
As with Tyler, "a migraine can be severe enough that kids
miss school because of it," says Diamond, and it can disrupt their daily
lives, their relationships with friends.
"They invite another kid over to play, then all of a sudden
say 'I can't do it today,'" he says. "They hibernate. They go to
"Food is often the trigger for a child's migraine,"
says Diamond, "especially cheese, peanut butter, and hot dogs."
Migraines in young children typically start at the end of the
school day, he says. In adolescents, they occur at lunch time. Older
adolescents -- ages 15, 16, 17 -- generally awaken with their migraine
After age 10, a child's head pain may be a tension headache
rather than migraine, says Diamond.
"Children build up anxieties, tensions, frustrations easily
after age 10," he says. "There are peer pressures, other factors that
could cause stress. Younger children just don't have those tensions in their
Until puberty, boys are more likely than girls to have
migraines; when the monthly hormone shifts hit young girls, they begin having
more migraines, says Diamond.
Treatments That Work
Automatic reaction for a child's headache pain: Reach for the
Tylenol, Advil, ibuprofen. But parents should pay attention to how much their
kids are taking, says Diamond. Too many over-the-counter headache medicines can
create what's known as "rebound headaches" -- a daily headache pattern
caused by caffeine in the medication.