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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 a month.

"We have marvelous migraine medications now," says Diamond.

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 Tyler.

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 relax.

"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.

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