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How to Manage When Your Child has a Migraine

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on November 08, 2021

Although migraines often go undiagnosed in children, they are surprisingly common. As many as 10 percent of school age children have migraine headaches. You can usually treat your child's migraines at home, though, especially if the symptoms are mild and don't cause your child to miss a lot of school. However, if their symptoms are more severe or they're having to take medicine for headache more than twice a week, you should contact their pediatrician as soon as possible.

Symptoms of Migraines in Children

A migraine goes beyond a normal headache and often occurs with other symptoms. Migraines are described as a throbbing headache accompanied by some or all of the following symptoms: 

  • Pain on one side of the head
  • Nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Numbness or tingling on one side of the body
  • Visual changes such as blurring, seeing spots, lines, or rainbows around objects
  • Rarely, confusion, hallucinations, or inability to speak

Treating Your Child's Migraine

Many migraines can be treated at home with rest, over-the-counter pain relievers, quiet, and extra fluids. For more frequent or severe headaches, however, your child may need other treatments or therapies, such as: 

Medications

At the first sign of a headache, give your child an appropriate dose of ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Children and teenagers who have or are recovering from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms should never take aspirin. Aspirin has been associated with a rare but potentially life-threatening disease called Reye's Syndrome.

If over-the-counter medicines don't help your child's migraines, they may need prescription medicines. Triptans are prescription medicines that are used to treat migraines in children over the age of 6. Your child's doctor may also prescribe an anti-nausea medicine if they have nausea and vomiting with their headaches. 

Relaxation training

Stress doesn't cause migraines, but it can trigger them or make them worse. Yoga, meditation, and deep breathing techniques are all types of relaxation training that may help your child manage stress. 

Cognitive behavior therapy

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) can be effective at reducing migraine frequency in children. Children can learn to use techniques in CBT to control stress and other negative reactions that may be making migraines worse. 

Lifestyle modifications

You may be able to help reduce the frequency of your child's migraines by ensuring your child gets:

  • At least 8 to 12 glasses of noncaffeinated beverages daily
  • Between 8 to 10 hours of sleep on a consistent schedule
  • At least 30 to 60 minutes of vigorous exercise daily
  • Three regular meals daily that include plenty of vegetables and protein

Show Sources

SOURCES:

American Migraine Foundation: "Treatment of Migraine in Children."

Children's Hospital Los Angeles: "Is Your Child a Migraine Sufferer? Ways You Can Help."

Mayo Clinic: "Headaches in children."

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