In this section
Migraine is a type of really bad headache
often felt on one side of the head. Some children get migraines
every now and then, while others get them more than once a
week. The headaches can range from being mild to very severe.
It's not exactly clear what causes migraines,
but they are likely to happen when blood vessels of the head and
neck spasm (shake) or become narrow (constrict). Minutes to
hours later, the blood vessels enlarge (dilate). When they
dilate, they fill with blood which causes more pressure in the
skull and a headache develops.
Migraine headaches happen to about six in every 100 people. They are common in children and in many cases they appear
to run in the family. Migraine is not a serious or life-threatening
disorder. It is painful and annoying at the time, but it is not
usually a serious problem. About half of children who get migraines
will continue to have them when they are adults. In teenagers and
adults migraines are more frequent in females, but in children they
happen equally between boys and girls.
A headache, which may be:
The headache commonly lasts six to 12
hours. Your child may also:
Doctors can usually make the diagnosis of
migraine after carefully listening to the story and examining your
child. In a very small number of children, tests may be done
to rule out other causes of headache. Most children do
not need any tests, and there are no tests which prove the
diagnosis of migraine.
Many things can trigger or start migraine
In only a few children, migraine can be
triggered or started by certain foods such as:
For most children, changing the diet does not help.
There is no cure for migraine. Anything that
has triggered a migraine in the past should be avoided if possible.
The goals of treatment are to control your child's symptoms and
prevent further migraines.
Medications are commonly used to help with
pain during a headache, and are best given as soon as any symptoms
begin to develop at the start of a headache. Children who
get very frequent migraine headaches, especially if they interfere with going to
school, may be given preventative medication to reduce the frequency of the headaches. Your child's doctor will discuss what treatment is appropriate with you.
Content developed by the Department of
Neurology. First published: August 2003.
Reviewed: July 2008. Updated November 2010.