Neurologists are finding a sizable number of children are being diagnosed with migraines. If you’ve had one, you know how debilitating they can be, so imagine dealing with them as a kid.
You’re never too young to suffer a migraine, Zach Weicht learned the hard way.
“I think I was eleven or twelve when it first happened. I was eating lunch in the cafeteria. I’d had a headache that morning and then I started seeing spots in front of my eyes,” says Weicht.
Zach was far from alone; turns out lots of young kids getting grown-up sized headaches.
“Yes, this is actually one of the more frequent diagnoses that we see. Studies show children as young as three to five years old, one to three percent of them have migraine headaches. If you go up to fifteen year olds, up to 23 percent of children that age have migraines,” says Lee Memorial Health System pediatric neurologist Dr. Guillermo Philipps.
These are no ordinary headaches, even a child can tell the difference. A migraine is extremely intense and debilitating.
“Migraines are typically throbbing headaches, sometimes one side of the head, sometimes both. They are associated with nausea, vomiting, visual changes, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to noises,” says Dr. Philipps.
Doctors begin treating migraines by looking at lifestyle issues and fine-tuning the child’s activities.
“Number one is get adequate sleep. Many children don’t get enough sleep. Second is excessive caffeine use. Another pretty frequent identified lifestyle factor is overuse of headache medicine,” says Dr. Philipps.
The next step is to learn what triggers the migraine.
“For some people it’s being out in the sun, others it’s certain smells or certain foods. If we do find something, I advise them to avoid it,” says Dr. Philipps.
“When you were a kid, was it hard finding your trigger points?”
“It was. Trying to find them was kind of trial and error,” says Weicht.
Medication may be an option if migraines become too frequent. But most people learn to manage. Now in his 20s, Zach has lived half his life controlling the pain in his brain.
“They’re not as intense as they used to be, because I know how to handle them now,” says Weicht.