Yes, Children and Teens Get Migraines: What Parents Need to Know

Migraines are no fun at any age. But imagine getting bad headaches that totally wipe you out, and nobody can explain what they are or how to treat them. That’s what happens to many children and teens who have migraines.

About 10% of children and teens around the world have migraines. But researchers believe this number is likely higher because migraines go undiagnosed in this age group. 

Doctors use symptoms to diagnose migraines, and children and teens may have a harder time explaining how they feel, especially before and after their head pain.

At Laurel Pediatric & Teen Medical Center in Bel Air, Maryland, our team of pediatric specialists want parents to know more about migraines in children and teens. When left undiagnosed and untreated, migraines may lead to more absences from school, affecting learning and socialization.

In this month’s blog, we want to tell parents what they need to know about migraines in kids.

What are migraines?

Migraines are a type of recurring headache that causes intense throbbing and pulsating head pain. Migraines may also cause dizziness, stomach pain, and sensitivity to light or noise.

Researchers are still learning about the underlying cause of migraines, but they theorize that the symptoms result from abnormal nerve signals in the brain that trigger inflammation and pain.

Anyone can have migraines, but genetics seem to influence who gets the chronic headaches. Children and teens who have a parent with migraines are at greater risk of developing them.

Migraines in children and teens

Migraines in children and teens look a little different than they do in adults. They may have pounding head pain, but the pain may affect the whole head, not one side like in adults. 

Other symptoms children and teens may have with a migraine include:

Children and teens may also have symptoms before or after their headache. They may seem very tired or extra moody the day before their headache starts. Once the head pain goes away, they may continue to feel fatigued or be unusually elated.

Auras also occur in children and teens who have migraines. Auras are sensory changes that occur with migraines, like seeing flashing lights, having blurry vision, or experiencing tingling sensations.  

Diagnosing migraines

Headaches are common in kids, and getting a migraine diagnosis requires your help. If you think your child or teen gets migraines, start a headache log. 

Track your child’s symptoms, like what their pain feels like, when it starts, and how long it lasts. You also want to track pre- and post-migraine symptoms and the activities you think might trigger the symptoms (stress from school, not eating breakfast, not getting enough sleep).  

During a visit with our team, we review your child’s symptoms and medical history and do a physical and neurological exam. We use the information you provide and results from our exam to formulate a diagnosis. 

We may also order blood work or imaging scans to rule out other medical conditions that cause similar symptoms.

Treating children and teens with migraines

Treatment for migraines in children and teens varies and depends on the frequency and severity of symptoms. But we do recommend lifestyle changes to manage the head pain, such as:

Giving your child over-the-counter pain medication at the start of their headache may decrease the severity and length of their pain. We may also prescribe migraine medications for children and teens with severe head pain or migraines that occur more than twice a week.

Yes, children and teens get migraines. Like adults, they need treatment for their recurring headaches to prevent problems now and in the future.

Are you worried about your child’s frequent headaches? Do migraines run in your family? We can provide the answers and help you need. Call our office at 410-504-6406 today or request an appointment online.

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