Margaret Karis’ oldest daughter was in third grade when she started getting headaches.
“She would just complain that her eyes hurt,” says her mother, Margaret Karis.
They weren’t sure whether it was the stress of school or something bigger. About 1 out of every 20 kids gets migraines.
“In general the numbers have been steady over decades,” says Dr. Guillermo Phillips, pediatric neurologist with Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.
“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. It can last a half an hour, more than an hour, or sometimes several days,” says Dr. Phillips.
Certain things may spark a reaction in a child’s nervous system and start a migraine attack. The most elementary way to manage migraines is to recognize the triggers.
“I ask parents what causes headaches to start? And for some people it’s being out in the sun, others it’s certain smells or certain foods. I always ask about sleep – number of hours and the quality of sleep. Whether children are eating all three meals a day,” says Dr. Phillips.
These are lifestyle factors, which can be modified. One factor that can’t be changed is genetics. Migraines tend to run in families.
“We didn’t have to look too far to see the source. Her dad and I get them too,” says Karis.
One in 5 kids feel the headaches coming on, through sensitivity to light or sound, blurred vision or a smelling a certain odor. That window of time may allow them to act.
“Medication for headaches really works best when the headache first starts. So waiting long periods of time sometimes let’s the headache get out of control,” says Dr. Phillips.
Children with severe migraines may take daily medications, others benefit from relaxation techniques to soothe the pain in their brain.