Parents, you need to know: Kids can get migraines too


Most adults who suffer from migraines know what to expect and how to treat them.

But, according to Dr. Emad Estemalik, a headache specialist at Cleveland Clinic, kids can get migraines too.

He said sometimes migraine headaches show up as young as 4 to 6 years of age.

"Twenty percent of women have migraines, and 6-8% of men," he said. "However, it's usually boys that start it at an earlier age, but they outgrow it faster." 

Estemalik said migraine symptoms in kids will often look different than they do for adults.

Adult migraine sufferers will often experience a pounding headache, nausea, vomiting, light and sound sensitivity.

Children, on the other hand, may look pale, have a loss of appetite, have some nausea and feel fatigued. They will often also have motion sickness while riding in cars.

Estemalik said it's important to try to find out what triggers your child's migraines.

He said foods can also trigger migraines for children, so he recommends keeping a food journal and writing down what the child ate when they have a reaction. 

And if parents are migraine sufferers, it's possible their child will be too.

"The vast majority of times, if there is a strong family history of migraines -- the mother has migraines, or the father has migraines -- there's a pretty good chance the kid may have migraines as well," Estemalik said.

Estemalik said kids don't often speak up about potential triggers, so it's important to take the time to understand whether there is anything happening in their lives that could be impacting the migraines.

"If a kid tells you -- ‘I'm having headaches' -- several days a week, or 15, 20 days a month, you may want to know if there is any other stressor, for instance -- is there anything going on in school? Any bullying occurring? If so, you want to assess the situation a little bit differently," said Estemalik. 

Guidelines were recently issued for both the treatment and prevention of children and adolescents.

Estemalik said many of the medications given to treat adult migraines are not approved for children to take, so it's important for parents to talk to their child's pediatrician if they suspect their child may have migraine headaches.