How to Treat Migraine Headaches in Children

If your youngster has either frequent or severe, headaches, that is cause enough to take him or her to a doctor. Recurring headaches can be a sign of something very serious in children. When you visit the doctor, go prepared by knowing your family’s medical history and give all the details concerning the headache.

If the child is old enough to answer, the doctor will probably want to specifically question the child. Do not be surprised or offended if the doctor wishes to question the child alone, he just wants to hear her describe the symptoms on her own. 

It is quite possible the doctor will instruct or request that you begin keeping a headache journal, which is simply a diary in which you keep track of such things as:

  • How often the child has the headaches
  • How bad the headaches are
  • How long the headaches last
  • Any medications given and whether they helped or not
  • Anything that brings on the headaches, makes them worse or better

Once important information about the headaches has been gathered, the doctor may want to do a complete physical exam.  After the exam is complete, often the doctor may want to carry out blood tests, cranial computed tomography, or a magnetic resonance imaging study.

For migraine and tension-type headaches, treatment might begin with nothing more complicated than improving sleep and nutrition habits. Headache triggers, if they have been identified, will be recommended to be avoided. 

For many kids, simple changes in lifestyle often produce a huge difference in how often they suffer from headaches, how bad the pain is and how long the headaches last.

If a drug treatment thought best, doctors often first recommend acetaminophen for children. If the pain does not stop with this treatment, let the doctor know immediately and make sure you never give more medicine to a child than is recommended. Even though acetaminophen is available without a prescription, it can still be dangerous to a child if too much is given. In addition, the doctor can recommend other medications. 

The more information about your child’s condition that you can provide to the physician, the easier it will be for the doctor to find the best medication for that child. Even with the best information, be prepared to undergo several trials before determining the most effective medication because each child reacts differently to medications. The medication may also be prescribed for the child’s nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea, if these symptoms are present.

A doctor may prescribe preventive treatments if the child’s headaches are severe or if they occur with great frequency. Many times kids and teenagers who have very bad headaches, as well as their parents make the decision not to use preventive treatments because they do not want to have take medicine every single day. The choice in this matter must be made by each child and his parents based on how difficult it may be for the child to cope with the headaches and how well medications work if taken after the headaches start.  Just be aware that there are many preventive medications that can be tried.

Some no drug treatments, like biofeedback and relaxation therapies, can be helpful, particularly in older children. These techniques must be learned by the child who will then practice and use them to cope with headache pain when it begins. If the techniques are practiced on a daily basis, they sometimes are even able to help prevent headaches from starting. Biofeedback machines measure electrical impulses or heat from the child’s skin and show these measurements on a TV screen, a flashing light bulb, or a beeper. The feedback from their own bodies can help the child to practice relaxation and make internal adjustments that help relieve the headache pain.

Because stress and anxiety play a part in many childhood headaches, it might be helpful for some children to see a mental health specialist, like a psychologist. Mental health specialists can help children with the relaxation techniques described above, and help them deal with the stress and anxiety they are feeling.

Updated: 25 September 2017 — 1:59 pm
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