When Your Child Has a Headache
Kids and Migraines
Treatments That Work continued...
Whether the headaches are migraines or tension headaches,
rebound headaches make the problem worse, he says.
"If a child is taking them more than twice a week, they are
in danger of developing rebound headaches," Diamond says.
In fact, a recent study in the Journal of Child
Neurology found that of 26 adolescents -- all with chronic headaches -- 16
were taking pain medication daily. But two months after stopping all pain
medication, the children reported suffering headaches for fewer than three days
"We have marvelous migraine medications now," says
They are the same migraine drugs given to adults:
"reversal" drugs that stop the migraine's onset, preventive drugs, and
drugs that provide pain relief after migraine is in full force, he says.
"We may lessen the dose, depending on the size of the child. None of these
are dangerous drugs."
Studies -- including several at The Cleveland Clinic -- are
looking at the effects of these medications on children.
One study of more than 500 children ages 12 to 17 found that
drugs that abort the migraine -- called triptans -- are "effective and
safe" in treating migraine in children, says A. David Rothner, MD, director
of the pediatric and adolescent headache clinic at The Cleveland Clinic. A
follow-up study conducted one year later again showed similar results.
For kids who have mild, infrequent migraines, doctors often
will combine ibuprofen and acetaminophen, Rothner tells WebMD. Others will
treat symptoms like nausea and vomiting with various medications, including a
drug called Zofran used by chemotherapy patients. Because sleep triggers
serotonin release, it seems to be the body's natural coping mechanism, he says.
Sedatives like Benadryl are sometimes prescribed to promote sleep.
But medications aren't the only answer. Biofeedback worked for
A form of self-hypnosis, biofeedback helps a child control --
as amazing as it may sound -- the blood flow in his body. It's a strategy that
helps about 75% of the time, says Diamond.
Tyler learned biofeedback pretty quick, he says. To do it, he
closes his eyes and focuses on relaxing those parts of his body that become
tense during migraine attacks. He listened to classical music while learning
biofeedback. Now, he says he can just think about that music while he tries to
"Biofeedback is not the answer for all, but it's a
wonderful adjunct and helps a great number of kids," says Diamond. "It
can work instead of medicine, but some children need both."
If you think your child might have migraines, go first to your
pediatrician or family physician, he advises.
"But it should be somebody who takes a thorough headache
history, who wants a calendar of when headaches occur," he says. His book
includes a list of about 30 questions the doctor should be asking.