Unique Symptoms of Childhood Migraines
We all know how horrible it is to have a migraine especially one that hits suddenly, lasts a long time or causes lots of sensory problems. As difficult as these maybe to live with as an adult, imagine how hard it must be for the children and the parents?
Migraines without a headache
As adults we sometimes get auras without headache. So do children and this is more common prior to age 7. I can sympathize with anyone who may find themselves at their ‘wits end’ trying to figure out why their child is acting funny, irritable and complaining of pain especially in belly. Many children may experience sudden bouts of abdominal pain or cramping as their ‘aura.’ As a child, I spent many a night in the ER waiting to be evaluated for such problems. Invariably, I would fall asleep of exhaustion. The abdominal pain would always stop after sleeping- the key that it is a migraine.
Besides getting acute pain in the belly, many kids experience severe motion sickness. This is both a predictor and indicator of having migraines, in my long history of dealing with children with migraines. As a child, I could not travel in the back seat. Forget getting on a merry- go- round even seeing who could swing the fastest and furthest because it would trigger nausea and vomiting. This can be extremely difficult for children who just want to fit in. This problem can reach its peak in cases of field trips where the stress and anxiety of fitting in and weary off an episode in public can compounded the effects of motion sickness.
This is a severe manifestation of a migraine especially in those who are too young to speak. It’s not clear if this is an actual phenomena like light sensitivity or a reaction to abnormal sensations which the child is experiencing and unable to cope. Seeing your child bang their head repeatedly can be extremely traumatizing but also potentially dangerous. These infants and toddlers can also become suddenly extremely irritable, inconsolable-crying incessantly, and rock their bodies as if trying to sooth themselves. These too respond to sleep in a dark quiet place.
My daughter typically complained of being very tired prior to migraines becoming full blown. I was becoming concerned that she had some underlying metabolic problem. After monitoring her fatigue, I realized it was a migraine since she would seek dark and quiet places, ask me not to talk loudly and turn off any sound during extreme fatigue. Typically occurring after she had not eaten, slept well, or there was low barometric pressure- all triggers of migraines. Many times coinciding with my own migraines.
If your child has any of these symptoms, responds to sleep, has similar triggers to migraines and at least one parent with migraines, in my experience one can almost be reassured that these are childhood migraines. Nevertheless, before migraines are accepted as the official diagnosis you must first seek medical advice to rule out other potentially devastating illnesses.
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