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pediatric migraine headaches, Vita Sciences

Pediatric Migraine Tips for Parents

Pediatric migraine symptoms are frightening and debilitating, Worse, many doctors don’t know how to treat pediatric migraine in small children or teens.

Pediatric migraines are different

When children get migraines, their symptoms are often much different than the ones experienced by their parents or other adult migraine sufferers.

With children, migraine attacks usually occur in the stomach. Most of the time, kids with migraines report feeling suddenly sick to their stomach, fatigued, and feeling the urge to vomit right away. Most- nearly 80 percent- have a very hard time focusing on school work because of a migraine attack, and their grades and attendance suffer as a result.

How common are pediatric migraines?

Migraines seem to increase with age, although it’s hard to be certain, as children under the age of five have difficulty explaining symptoms to their parents that may indicate migraine.

Only about 3 percent of preschool kids get migraines, but that number escalates to 11 percent by the time they reach grade school. Among high school students, nearly a quarter experience frequent migraine headaches, fatigue, dizziness, stomach pain, and extreme sensitivity to bright lights.

Just as with adults, most teen migraine sufferers are females.

Do migraine drugs help children?

Currently, there is no clear evidence that migraine preventive medications for adults can help children, as well. Though the FDA approves the use of antiseizure drugs (Topamax), antidepressants (Elavil), and calcium channel blockers (Covera) to help prevent migraine attacks in adults, many studies show that for pediatric migraines, prescription medications aren’t always the best option.

Recently, scientists studied the effects of migraine prophylaxis medications on children with “episodic migraines,” migraine attacks that occur fewer than 15 times per month.

For the study, researchers focused on anticonvulsant medications, antidepressants, calcium channel blockers, antihistamines, NSAIDs, and drugs for high blood pressure- all of which are often prescribed for adult migraine prevention.

In most cases, the placebo was most effective at reducing the rate of migraine attacks in children, while the migraine preventive treatments had virtually no effect.

Study co-author Dr. Jeffrey Jackson concluded that despite the amount of research we have collected over the years on the best ways to prevent migraines, we really know very little on how to help children who suffer debilitating migraine headaches.

“It’s very discouraging. I was rather shocked to see, quite frankly, how few studies were done among children with headaches, and that the handful of studies we have suggest that the benefits of these drugs, if any, aren’t really big.” -Jackson

When asked to comment on side effects associated the migraine prophylaxis meds, Dr. Jackson agrees that parents shouldn’t rush to administer the pill right away.

“These medicines are kind of nasty. Some cause dry mouth, or fatigue, or problems with concentrating. They’re not really medicines you would want your vibrant teen to be on if they’re not working.”

So, what does help?

Experts agree that natural prevention is your best defense against migraines, for children as well as for adults.

As a parent, you can best help your child by helping her to become familiar with common migraine triggers in food. Caffeine can sometimes make headaches worse, or it can provide relief; it’s different for each individual. Overripe fruits, chocolate, and deli meats are typical menu items that can guarantee a migraine attack. To find out which foods should be cut out, try putting your child on an elimination (restrictive) diet.

Irregular eating and sleeping patterns are common culprits. Does your child sleep the same hours each day, or does she go to bed late on weekends? Does she ever skip meals? The migraine brain hates change, so instilling a rigid sleep and eating schedule is a good way to prevent migraine attacks from occurring.

Stress is a big contributor to migraines, as well. While stressful situations don’t actually cause migraine headaches, they do make them more likely to occur.

If your child gets migraines with aura, then teach her how to recognize the symptoms and use them to her benefit. Flashing, twinkling or shifting light patterns, dizziness, and speech slurring are all cues that a migraine is approaching. At school, your child should ask to see the nurse and explain that she is having a migraine aura, and needs a few minutes to lie down with the lights turned off.

Many parents have also found that natural supplements help with pediatric migraines. Herbs such as butterbur are safe for children and adults alike, and cause no harmful side effects. Other helpful nutrients for migraines in children include magnesium, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), and coenzyme Q10.

Nevertheless, please consult in a doctor before trying out any new migraine treatment for your child, including natural vitamins, minerals, and herbs.

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  • Is it Migraine or Tension Headache? Comparison Chart

    Do you always know if you’re experiencing migraine or tension headache symptoms? Both can occur from extreme stress and fatigue. To prevent rebound headache and find the best treatment possible, it’s important to know exactly what’s causing your headache to begin with. Here is a handy chart to help you learn different symptoms and treatments for migraine and tension headaches.

    Is it Migraine or Tension Headache? Comparison Chart

    Migraine or Tension Headache: Quick reference

    • Migraines are a neurological disorder causing a vast array of symptoms, including debilitating head pain that last for hours, sometimes days. In addition, sufferers experience tiredness, nausea, stomach pain, dizziness, and the need to vomit.
    • Tension headaches are primarily caused by stress and fatigue. Headaches from tense muscles are much easier to treat than migraines, as they respond to medication much better.

    Head pain type

    Tension headache: Dull pressure, the sensation of a band strapped tightly across the head or neck. Pain is mild or moderate.

    Migraine: Throbbing, intense pounding on one side of the head, often at the temple or eye areas. Pain is moderate to extreme, making it difficult to concentrate or think about anything else.

    Location of head pain

    Tension headache: Scalp, forehead, neck, temples.

    Migraine: Temples, eyes.

    Pain duration

    Tension headache: Pain increases and subsides over the course of the day, or for several days.

    Migraine: Headache comes on strong, stays intense for hours. For people with chronic migraines, headaches return repeatedly- more than 15 times per month.

    Comorbid symptoms

    Tension headache: Insomnia, neck stiffness, stress.

    Migraine: Sensitivity to lights (photophobia), scents, and noise; nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, vertigo, distorted speech, partial paralysis, feebleness, loss of consciousness, visual distortions.

    Headache triggers

    Tension headache triggers: Stress, tiredness, bad posture, eye strain, hunger.

    Migraine headache triggers: Food ingredients, scents, noise, bright lights, weather, allergies, air pressure, stress, tension headaches, hunger, irregular sleep patterns, dehydration, cigarette smoke, hormonal fluctuations.

    Warning signs

    Tension headache: None.

    Migraine (with aura): Prodrome phase that occurs hours before, causing symptoms such as euphoria, olfactory hallucinations, unusual cravings, and edginess. Minutes before, some migraineurs experience aura- strange visual disturbances and stroke-like symptoms.

    Migraine Aura and Prodrome- What’s the Difference?

    Prevalence

    Most headache sufferers- from tension type and migraine combined- are female.

    Treatment

    Tension headache: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are usually sufficient to get rid of a tension headache, although it may take a few days.

    Migraine: There are many different types of migraines, so only your doctor can prescribe the best possible course of treatment for symptoms of migraine attacks.

    There is no cure for migraine illness, but by using daily migraine preventative treatments, many are able to thwart off the majority of migraine headaches and symptoms of nausea, dizziness, and fatigue.

    Popular natural herbs and vitamins for migraine help include PA-free butterbur root, magnesium, riboflavin, and coenzyme Q10. Find them here.

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