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Health & Pregnancy

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When Your Child Has a Headache

Kids and Migraines

A Migraine Pioneer continued...

"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 respected."

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 disability."

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 tells WebMD.

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 Diamond.

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."

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