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Migraine in kids is not just a bad headache.
It’s a complicated neurological disease, with head pain and other symptoms, like nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sensitivity to touch, sound, light, and odors. Abdominal pain and mood changes can occur, too. While kids generally have fewer and shorter migraine attacks than adult sufferers, childhood migraine can be just as disabling, and it can seriously affect the child’s quality of life. Consult a doctor if your child suffers from frequent or disabling headaches or migraine symptoms.
Unfortunately, migraine is very common in children. It’s been reported in kids as young as 18 months old. About 10% of school-age children suffer from migraine. Half of all migraine sufferers have their first attack before the age of 12. Before puberty, boys suffer from migraine more often than girls. As adolescence approaches, the incidence increases more rapidly in girls than in boys. By the time they turn 17, as many as 8% of boys and 23% of girls have experienced a migraine.
Although we still don’t know what causes migraine, a combination of genetic and environmental factors are likely involved. A child who has one parent with migraine has a 50% chance of inheriting it, and if both parents have migraine, the chances rise to 75%. More than half of migraine sufferers have a close relative with the disease.
Migraine is Disabling in Kids and Teens, too
While symptoms of migraine in kids and teens may be different from those typically found in adults, children can be just as disabled. In addition to the attack-related disability itself, kids and teens may develop anticipatory anxiety, worrying that at any time an attack could disrupt their life. It’s quite common for kids who suffer to be absent from school and unable to participate in after-school and weekend activities. In fact, kids who have migraine are absent from school twice as often as kids who don’t.
Kids and especially adolescents and teens can also suffer from one of the most disabling types of migraine, chronic migraine (CM). CM occurs when a child has 15 or more headache days per month lasting more than 4 hours, for more than 3 months. Many teenagers with CM report daily headaches. Head pain isn’t the only symptom of CM – other common symptoms include dizziness, sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, and fatigue. CM is challenging to treat and significantly impairs quality of life.
Childhood migraine is a special focus of MRF’s research program. We don’t know much about childhood migraine, and very few drugs have been approved for use in kids. Kids with migraine are often undiagnosed or under-treated, and there are very few headache specialists who will treat them. In response to this need, we’ve established For Our Children, an initiative to encourage research about childhood migraine. Read about how For Our Children is helping kids.
The information provided here should not be used for the diagnosis, treatment, or evaluation of any medical condition. The Migraine Research Foundation has made every effort to ensure that the information is accurate; however, we cannot warranty its reliability, completeness, or timeliness. © Migraine Research Foundation.