The beginning of a new school can be very exciting for some children who enjoy the challenge of change and social stimulation. But for many children the multitude of changes that a family can experience with new schedules, teachers, schools and friends can be overwhelming and trigger a migraine. There are many triggers to a typical migraine that can involve emotional or physical stress, onset of illness and certain foods or drinks.
Migraine headaches are the most common acute and recurrent headache pattern experienced by children. Studies suggest that migraines occur in 5 to 10% of school aged children in the United States. During a migraine episode a child may complain of a severe headache around the eyes, in the forehead area, or in the temples. Some children report a vision change, nausea from strong odors and aversion from bright lights or loud noises.
It is difficult to get detailed medical history from children who may be confused when describing the location or timing of migraine headaches. There are certain conditions that can mimic a migraine such as sinusitis or dental problems that can lead to head pain. For an accurate diagnosis the child should be seen by a board certified pediatric neurologist.
Treatment of migraines
Treatment of migraines is multifaceted and you should work closely with your pediatrician and neurologist for the optimal relief of symptoms. Sleep has been reported as the best treatment for migraines. It restores normal brain function, relieves pain and resolves other associated symptoms. Caregivers should have the child lay down in a cool, dark quiet room to help fall asleep. Applying ice or pressure to the area of pain can be helpful in relieving symptoms. Your physician may ask that you keep a headache diary to identify a pattern of when the migraines occur. Triggers to a headache can occur up to 12 hours prior to the attack.
Nutrition has also been known to affect migraines in some children. Nitrates that are found in processed food such as lunch meats and hot dogs have triggered headaches. There are also MSG flavor enhancers that are found in baked goods, chips, and gelatins that can be highly toxic to some people who suffer from migraines. Treatment for anyone that suffers from migraines would be appropriate rest, avoidance of triggers and a reduction of stress. You should have a regular bedtime and scheduled meals even if it means being involved in fewer activities. Helping your child learn about their body and self-care at a young age will help them to be a healthier, happier adult.