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Unique Symptoms of Childhood Migraines

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?

Here are 4 unique symptoms that may suggest a child has migraines especially if one parent carries diagnosis.

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.

Motion sickness

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.

Head-banging

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.

Fatigue

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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • kimmersutphin
    2 years ago

    My parents told me that I was hitting my head with my hands as before I could even speak. Always Road up front in the car with them cuz I get so sick in the car. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t having migraines. They just got worse as I got older.

  • maria.deleon moderator author
    2 years ago

    Kimmersutphin, i am so very sorry you hav head to suffer this way…I can’t even imagine the frustration and pain. Well hope these new meds coming out will help ease your pain. Thnaks for sharing an dhave a wonderful day! Maria de León/author/patient advocate

  • Macbeck
    2 years ago

    Explains a lot! I had already figured out that I’ve had migraines since childhood, but the belly pain, motion sickness and fatigue describe my childhood. Thanks for putting evidence behind my thoughts. 🙂

  • maria.deleon moderator author
    2 years ago

    Your welcome.

  • brae
    2 years ago

    My migraines aren’t gone but the head banging pain is gone thanks to 3 succesful surgeries three yrs ago. Looking back I experienced many of the symptoms of childhood migraines…hindsight. I could write a book about my journey in migraines. Glad for continuing awareness and empathy and research into this disabilitating disease I have gone from Daily chronic migraines cured only with triptans to 1-2 headaches monthly often cured with Excedrin for Migraine People. Keep researching and looking for cures to this very difficult disease

  • maria.deleon moderator author
    2 years ago

    So glad you are better.

  • John1381
    2 years ago

    I had a terrible time as a child in the 1970’s due to undiagnosed childhood migraine. I had all the above symptoms, bloating, neck ache, sensitivity, terrible fatigue, anxiety, poor concentration. Motion sickness was terrible; appalling 400 mile car trips back to my grandparents in Scotland with my dad’s smoky pipe in the car!

    The doctor thought I was a malingerer and shouted at me that if I carried on he would send me to a psychiatrist to sort me out. I missed a lot of schooling and most teachers didn’t understand that I struggled to concentrate and was in discomfort, particularly with stomach issues. Often I would get called thick (well, I can be a bit dense sometimes) and one teacher in particular who would ridicule me n front of the class about being ‘so thick’.

    Your article led me to think about how much that time period still effects me today and the psychological impact that a misdiagnosis or uncaring attitude can have. I still struggle today with not thinking I am up to the job or am too thick to understand issues and it affected my work life.I managed to attain two degrees in the end but was extremely anxious throughout and a large part of that is the insecurity of being ill as a child with migraine and not knowing and not being believed. I have recently had to take ill health retirement due to chronic migraine so work is less of an issue, but I have definitely held myself back from some jobs I would have liked to do in the past.

    Thank you for your article and also the other contributors who have commented, understanding others members views have really helped me.

    Regards,

    John.

  • maria.deleon moderator author
    2 years ago

    John,
    I am truly sorry you felt so stigmatized . I spent a lot of time sleeping on trips in order to cope and more er visits than I care to remember. Fortunately the science has advanced as well as treatments so our kids don’t have to go through same issues and get diagnosed early. You obviously are smart and have overcome a lot so give yourself credit and if headaches still not controlled talk to your physician about reevaluating your rescue meds as well as various prophylactic agents. Best of luck

  • maria.deleon moderator author
    2 years ago

    Luna..thank you for sharing and i am sorry that it took so long to get diagnosed..if your headaches have gotten worse as you have aged need not assume migraines ..i will be writing about this shortly. however, please make sure you do see a neurologist asap. my migraines too have changed and the dizziness and motion sickness has worsened again now that i am going through menopause.

  • Luna
    2 years ago

    It took so long to get diagnosed in the 1950-60s because I was very episodic and only mild to moderate. I don’t really remember motion sickness after age 13. I look forward to your next article.

  • Luna
    2 years ago

    I remember having motion sickness. There were times I would sit in the big swivel rocker and turn it to the wall in a corner because I just didn’t feel good. Another memory is waking up in bed and the room was getting dark. Couldn’t understand why I was in bed early but the wall I was facing had a beautiful waterfall of colors and geometrical shapes. Then in my teens would have bouts of terrible “trapped gas” pains. Was also diagnosed with allergy and sinus headaches. Then at some point, maybe 30s, I saw a brochure about migraine or sinus headaches. Took the brochure to my doctor and he confirmed, migraine. Was very episodic until menopause then they started changing for the worse. Am now 70+. Courage to all.

  • maria.deleon moderator author
    2 years ago

    sound like tunnel vision and scintillating lights associated with classic migraines.

  • marycr8on
    2 years ago

    I didn’t have any of those symptoms, as a young child. But I did have, what I believe, were auditory auras. I heard a specific sound, like the sound of a burnt out light bulb being shaken. No one else ever heard that, but me. When I was a teenager, I had bouts of abdominal pain or cramping that were unrelated to my period. Doctors told my mother; “It’s all in her head.” I’m sure both of those things were related to what has become chronic daily migraines, for me.

  • maria.deleon moderator author
    2 years ago

    Mary,
    thanks for sharing.i am not aware of any auditory auras however there are vestibular or otic migraines which can impair hearing or rather cause pain which is positional so don’t know if this is what you were feeling or hearing? sorry that you are having chronic headaches i absolutely understand what that is like. i will be writing in some tips to deal with this shortly. hang in there.

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