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When Your Child Has a Headache

Kids and Migraines

Does Your Child Have Migraines? continued...

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 sleep."

"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 headaches.

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 lives."

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.

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.

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