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My poor son inherited my Migraines

I began having severe migraines about 10 years ago, and being the child of a migraine sufferer, I finally understood why my mother would be locked in her dark bedroom, up to 3 days at a time, while having an episode! About 3 years ago, mine became more severe AND more frequent, occurring about 3 times a week. It seemed to coincide with the onset of extreme anxiety and the inability to “shut” my brain off at night. My doctor prescribed Amitriptyline, an older anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication, which has also proven to be a migraine preventative (and makes you drowsy). After starting with this course of treatment, the frequency of my migraines greatly decreased, and I was able to fall asleep much more easily.

Sadly, about 3 years ago, my son who is now 11, began getting migraines that were much more severe than mine, causing him to vomit several times in a day, while experiencing an episode. Once his migraines increased in frequency, we began seeing a pediatric neurologist who immediately recommended having his eyes checked. I thought for sure this would be our answer, since my husband and I, and both of our parents, all have poor vision. We visited the opthamologist and learned his vision is excellent, 20/15, to be precise! He was then scheduled for an MRI, which also showed no problematic areas in the brain that could be the cause.

My son unfortunately, also inherited my anxiety issues (which I inherited from my mother and grandmother), and I feel like this is his migraine trigger. We have been in therapy for a year now, for his anxiety, which has helped somewhat, giving him better coping skills, but the migraines have continued, occurring usually during times of stress or over excitement, such as End of Grade exams, first days of school, large family gatherings, etc..

It is so hard to see someone so young dealing with things so debilitating as migraines and anxiety…I didn’t have to learn to cope with those things until I was in my 30’s, and even as an adult, it was extremely difficult to handle or control. We’ve began keeping a headache journal, so we can try to pinpoint his trigger, and I’ve noticed a pattern…while they do occur on days with high-stress levels, the weather seems to be very telling as well! The Spring has been difficult so far, with all the rain we’ve been getting, and I’ve realized on rainy days lately, he will get a migraine. I’ve heard that this is common, as the changes in the barometric pressure affect us individually.

If there are any parents of children with migraines, I’d love to hear your story. Due to my son’s anxiety issues, combined with the migraines, our neurologist informed us that what I currently take, Amitriptyline, may be an option for him, but as much as I want my son to be able to manage his migraines, the thought of medicating him makes me a little uneasy. Our pharmacist was even surprised when he was once prescribed a strong pain killer by an Urgent Care doctor, and said he’d never seen such a potent drug prescribed for a child his age!

So if anyone out there has a go-to remedy that provides some relief for their child, other than junior strength ibuprofen and a cold headache wrap, please share!

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


  • DarkAngel6
    4 years ago

    I understand your frustration. I’m almost 19 and I inherited chronic migraines from my moms side of the family and I’ve had it ever since I was 8 as well. They started out abdominal just like your sons and I would get them 2-3 times a week. Not to discourage you, but mine have become completely chronic. I get a headache mild to severe, neck pain and fatigue everyday. It’s hell sometimes. I’ve been to neurology and still nothing has been able to help me. Nothing is physically wrong with me either. It’s simply just genetics. Amitriptyline was actually one of the medications that I have taken without success among many more.
    I learned on my own how to cope and deal with migraines and, even though it sucks, im happy that he has you to understand him. All my life I have never had anyone that understood my migraines and supported me about it. Even my own mother, who had them at a young age herself, says that I use it as an excuse. I am a full time college student without a job and I can barely even handle that.
    It saddened me to read this because i don’t want to see someone go through exactly what I have. I hope that his migraines get better very soon.

  • LaGrasta
    4 years ago

    Keeping my post short, but our experience is the same. Headaches and migraines run on Dad’s side of the family, both male and female; grandma, Dad, me, my boy and girl now too. Mine started at 5 years old. Weather is the main trigger, but often I go to bed fine, but awake with it. MaxAlt has been my savior since discovering it 8 years ago. I expect my kids will take it too. I’ve tried everything, EVERYTHING. Nothing else helps, no prevention whatsoever.

  • Julie
    4 years ago

    My experience is very similar to yours, Laura. My migraine disease was inherited from my father, and I, in turn have passed it on to my son. My son is also 11 and first developed migraine 3 years ago at age 8. My own migraines were never more than occasional until I was in my 30s, during which they have worsened considerably. For the past year and a half, they have been chronic and difficult to treat because my body builds up resistance to the drugs (both preventative and rescue meds). The one med I have been on for a few years now is amitriptyline. This has helped my migraines in the past, as well as helping to curb my mild-moderate anxiety.
    While I used to try to steer clear of medicating myself or my kids unless absolutely necessary, my own experience has changed that. For better or worse, I now welcome pharmaceuticals with open arms as they are the only thing that has brought me relief (however temporary it can be). I’m not saying that is right or wrong, and I completely understand your hesitation.

    In my son’s case, our pediatrician first prescribed a limited course of sandomigraine when he first developed frequent attacks at age 8. This worked very well, and after 3 months, he was able to come off of the drug. The effects lasted for about 2 years, during which time he had no migraine attacks. His attacks started again a year ago, and this time they have been harder to treat. The attacks also got longer – there were many times that he was in bed for 3 days at a stretch. He does not respond to ibuprofen or acetaminophen at all, and we have yet to find anything – drug or not – that relieves his symptoms. For the past year, we have found that his symptoms more often lead to nausea and vomiting (which is the only symptom I do not suffer from).

    Eventually we put him on Topimax, which has helped but has not eliminated his attacks. We have gradually increased the dose, and are hoping that the most recent increase (to 100mg/day) will get rid of the attacks. I have determined that his main trigger is the weather, which is also my most significant trigger. Lately, we tend to suffer together. My son’s attacks follow a specific timeline where he wakes up with one in the morning and is in bed until 3-4 in the afternoon, at which time he usually feels better. Since starting on Topimax, he hasn’t had anymore 3 day attacks.

    It is terrible to see him in pain and discomfort, and we often worry about the amount of school he has missed this year, which has been a lot. I completely empathize with what you and your son are going through. I wish you all the best, and hope you find something that helps your son. In no way do I think that drugs are the only answer, or necessarily the best answer. One thought I do cling to is that as horrible as it is to see my son go through this, I am grateful that I can relate to his pain and other symptoms. I wouldn’t wish this on either of us, but at least we are able to understand what each other is going through.

  • RobertCan
    4 years ago

    As a parent, I understand the reluctance to medicate a child. Never a fan but there are times we must. My daughter suffers episodic migraine and I don’t hesitate to give her the relief she needs via medication. I know the pain of migraine all too well and know that our children do not have the coping skills we have as adults so pain management becomes a top priority.

    It’s heart-wrenching to see our kids in pain. Wishing you both a pain-free day – robert

  • Katie M. Golden moderator
    4 years ago

    It must be so hard to see your son go through this. LCM86 had some great suggestions. You may also want to visit our natural remedies page to get other suggestions.

    To be honest, I was put on amitriptyline at about the same age as your son and it made a difference. I’m not pushing drugs, just wanted you to know that amitriptyline is often given to kids his age.

    Best Wishes,
    -Katie Moderator

  • LCM86
    4 years ago

    Hi Laura, my name is also Laura and I also inherited my migraines from my mom and they began when I was 10. I remember my first attack when I was in 5th grade. Things that have helped me since I was that age and unable to be on the prescription medicines are hot showers/baths (and soaking my head for a lengthy time in the water) then laying down with an ice pack, salon-spas on forehead and neck (don’t put too close to your eyes!), a super cold drink or smoothie is really comforting (I crave cold things ). Your son maybe more like my mom and want hot things, she usually gets her migraines when it rains while I get them when it warms back up after a storm/cold front. Mine were bad thru 5-6th grade but when I started getting more into puberty they decreased to one a year (until I turned 22). Hoping you and your son find some relief!

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