Treatment of Migraine in Children

Treatment of Migraine in Children

Does your child ever complain of intense headaches that disrupt their playtime or schoolwork? You’re not alone!

Migraine Fact Approximately 1 in 5 school-age children experience headaches, with tension headaches being the most common type. However, around 5% of children suffer from migraines, with some starting as young as 4 years old.

Migraines are surprisingly common in children, affecting millions each year.  While headaches in children can be concerning, understanding the signs and treatment can empower you to help your child feel better. Paediatric migraine treatment requires a tailored approach that considers their unique needs and developmental stage, aiming to provide relief while minimising side effects. This delicate balance ensures that young patients can lead healthy, active lives despite their condition.

What is a Migraine?

A migraine is more than just a severe headache; it is a neurological condition characterised by various symptoms, including:

  • Throbbing head pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Vision disturbances, such as seeing spots or flashing lights
  • Sensitivities to light, sound, and smells

Migraines often begin with mild symptoms that gradually worsen. They typically last from 30 minutes to several hours, but in some cases, they can persist for several days.

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What are Migraines in Children?

Although migraines are often associated with adults, children can experience them too. Headaches in preschoolers and other children are the same neurological condition that affects adults but present differently. In children, migraines usually impact both sides of the head, whereas adult migraines are often one-sided. Additionally, migraine episodes in children tend to be shorter in duration. Despite this, childhood migraines can be debilitating, leading to missed school, sports, and other activities.

What causes Migraine in children?

Researchers are not entirely sure why some children experience migraines while others do not. However, the condition often runs in families, indicating a genetic component. Experts have identified that certain genetic mutations can make children more susceptible to specific types of migraines.

Migraine sufferers frequently discover that particular foods, situations, or environmental factors can trigger episodes. Identifying these triggers can help prevent migraines, although it can take time to pinpoint them. Additionally, multiple triggers often overlap, contributing to the onset of a migraine episode.

What happens during Migraine in children?

Paediatric migraine symptoms vary between cases. The most typical symptom of migraines in children is pounding or throbbing pain in the head. In younger children, the pain typically affects the front or both sides of the head, but it can also impact the entire head or just a specific part.

A few hours or even days before the headache begins, children might feel unusual or “not right.” They may experience cravings for different foods or feel unusually thirsty, irritable, tired, or even unusually energetic. This phase is known as a “premonition.”

Some children experience auras, which are neurological symptoms that occur just before the headache and can last up to an hour. Auras vary from person to person but often affect vision.

For example, a child might:

  • Have blurred vision
  • See spots, coloured balls, jagged lines, or bright flashing lights
  • Smell a certain odour
  • Experience a tingling sensation in a part of their face

Additionally, physical activity can exacerbate the pain. Most migraine headaches in children last from 30 minutes to several hours, although some can extend to a couple of days.


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Treatment for Migraine in Children

Childhood migraine treatment depends upon the stage and severity of the illness.


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Two of the most effective classes of medications for treating acute migraines are:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): Examples include ibuprofen and naproxen sodium. These medications reduce inflammation, and their effectiveness may be increased when taken with caffeine.

Triptans and Ergots: These medications disrupt the physiological processes that cause and sustain migraine attacks. They are intended to relieve migraines within two to four hours, ideally within one to two hours. The triptan group includes tablets, nasal sprays, and injectable forms. Dihydroergotamine is available as a nasal spray or injection, and compounding pharmacies can prepare other formulations if needed

Preventive Treatments

For Children with Frequent Migraines

While most migraine treatments focus on managing individual attacks, there are options for children experiencing them more than twice a week.  These  “preventive therapies” involve taking medication daily to lower the overall frequency of migraines and stabilize headache patterns when they become too disruptive. Thankfully, for many children, preventive medication may only be needed for a few months. Once their headaches become less frequent and manageable, they can often be weaned off the medication and maintain a lower headache frequency through lifestyle changes alone.iscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Beyond Medication – Neuromodulation Devices

In addition to medications, some children might benefit from exploring neuromodulation devices for migraine prevention.  These devices, like the supraorbital nerve stimulator or the vagus nerve stimulator, use gentle electrical stimulation to target specific nerves involved in migraine headaches.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy - Addressing the Stress Factor

Childhood migraine treatment can also include Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – a powerful tool alongside medication in reducing migraine frequency. Children with migraines are often more sensitive to stress, and sudden changes in their stress levels can trigger an attack. Chronic stress can also contribute to chronic migraines. Through CBT, children can learn techniques to manage stress more effectively and identify triggers to utilize additional therapies during headache attacks

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Lifestyle Changes


Simple lifestyle changes can result in fewer episodes of headaches in children:  If your child experiences more frequent headaches, some everyday adjustments can make a big difference.

Here are a few tips:

  • Hydration Hero: Encourage your child to become a hydration hero by drinking eight to twelve glasses of non-caffeinated beverages daily.
  • Sleep Sanctuary: Create a sleep sanctuary by establishing a consistent sleep schedule, aiming for eight to ten hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
  • Move It or Lose It: Regular exercise can be a powerful weapon against headaches. Encourage your child to participate in 30-60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week, focusing on aerobic exercises like jogging, swimming, or cycling.
  • Fueling for Wellness: Promote a healthy diet with three balanced meals daily. Focus on low-fat and low-sugar foods while incorporating plenty of vegetables and protein sources to nourish your child’s body.

Seek trusted and professional treatment for headaches in children with our child neurologist, Dr Arif Khan

Don’t let headaches dim your child’s bright light. If your child experiences frequent or severe headaches, seeking professional guidance is crucial.  Our highly renowned child neurologist, Dr Arif Khan, is an expert in the domain and is dedicated to providing comprehensive care for children with migraines. He provides professional and concrete guidance with valuable information, treatment options, and preventative measures regarding this chronic condition.

Remember, you’re not alone in this journey.

Contact Dr Arif today to schedule a consultation and explore the best path towards migraine relief for your child.