Talking to children

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last review date: November 2010

Talking to children and teens about their migraines

Young children with migraines may not be able to explain the pain they experience. That’s why it’s important to discuss with young people how they feel in order to give them appropriate care. Take their complaints seriously and help them determine what helps them feel better. If your child is too young to speak, you will have to gather information based on how the child acts because it is possible to have a baby with a history of migraines.

Keep in mind that symptoms of migraines in children may be different from those adults experience:

  • Children’s migraine symptoms often start and worsen quickly.
  • Children complain of stomach discomfort often, which may be a sign of abdominal migraine.
  • Children’s symptoms may last only one hour or a couple of days.

Managing a child with a migraine:

  1. Be careful not to upset or worry young children. One study showed that 59 percent of children ages 5 to 7 were concerned that they might have a brain tumor because of their migraine pain.
  2. Ask the child or teen to describe the migraine pain.
  3. If the child has trouble putting the pain into words, ask if it feels like someone beating a drum inside their heads — usually one of the signs of migraine; or if it feels like someone squeezing their head — a sign of a regular tension headache.
  4. Keep a journal or a log of the date and time the pain occurs, what the child was doing before the pain started and how long it lasts.
  5. Also write down other migraine symptoms the child experiences, such as vision change, nausea, vomiting, etc.
  6. Does the journal show a pattern? For example, are there certain foods that trigger migraines? Or do the migraines occur after a sleepless night or after skipping meals? If so, try to avoid those triggers to see if the migraines go away.
  7. Find out what makes the migraine pain worsen and what makes the child feel better.
  8. Find out if anyone in the child’s immediate family is a migraine sufferer, since migraines tend to run in families.
  9. If the migraines continue, take the information to a childhood migraine specialist.

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