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Migraine Headache in Children

Migraine Headache in Children and Adolescents
Do children get headaches?

Yes. The most common cause of headaches in children is a viral infection such as a cold or the flu. Children and adolescents can also get tension-type headaches and migraine headaches. Brain tumors can cause headaches, but these tumors are very rare. In addition to a headache, brain tumors almost always cause problems with coordination, balance, speech, sight and walking.

What is a migraine headache?

A migraine is usually an intense pounding headache with nausea. The pounding or pulsing pain usually begins in the forehead, the side of the head or around the eyes. The headache gradually gets worse. Just about any movement or activity seems to make it hurt more. Nausea and vomiting are common. Bright lights or loud noises make the headache worse. The headache can last for 2 hours or even up to 2 or 3 days.

Some people see a pattern of lines or shadows in front of their eyes as the headache is beginning. This is called a “warning aura.” Most people who have migraine headaches do not have this.

Do many children get migraine headaches?

As many as 5% of children in grade school have migraine headaches. During the high school years, about 20% of adolescents get migraine headaches. These headaches are more common in girls than in boys. Boys who get migraines have them more often when they are about 10 to 12 years old. It is not unusual for them to have 2 to 3 migraine headaches a week.

How do children describe their migraine headaches?
  • “It feels like my heart is pounding in my head.”
  • “All I want to do is throw up.”
  • “It is like being inside a big bass drum.”
  • “I just want to go into a dark room and lie down.”

What causes migraines?

Migraine headaches seem to be caused in part by changes in the level of a body chemical called serotonin. Serotonin plays many roles in the body, and it can have an effect on the blood vessels. When serotonin levels are high, blood vessels constrict (shrink). When serotonin levels fall, the blood vessels dilate (swell). This swelling can cause pain or other problems.

Certain things that can set off migraines include the following:

  • Strong or unusual odors, bright lights or loud noises
  • Changes in weather or altitude
  • Being tired, stressed or depressed
  • Changes in sleeping patterns or sleeping time
  • Certain foods (see the list below), especially those that contain tyramine, sodium nitrate or phenylalanine
  • Missing meals or fasting
  • Menstrual periods or hormones
  • Intense physical activity

Foods that may trigger migraines

  • Aged, canned, cured or processed meat, including bologna, game, ham, herring, hot dogs, pepperoni and sausage
  • Aged cheese
  • Aspartame
  • Avocados
  • Beans, including pole, broad, lima, Italian, navy, pinto and garbanzo
  • Brewer’s yeast, including fresh yeast coffee cake, donuts and sourdough bread
  • Caffeine (in excess)
  • Canned soup or bouillon cubes
  • Chocolate, cocoa and carob
  • Cultured dairy products, such as buttermilk and sour cream
  • Figs
  • Lentils
  • Meat tenderizer
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Nuts and peanut butter
  • Onions, except small amounts for flavoring
  • Papaya
  • Passion fruit
  • Pea pods
  • Pickled, preserved or marinated foods, such as olives and pickles, and some snack foods
  • Raisins
  • Red plums
  • Sauerkraut
  • Seasoned salt
  • Snow peas
  • Soy sauce

How is migraine diagnosed?

Your doctor can diagnose migraines by the symptoms your child describes. After talking to your child about his or her symptoms, your doctor will perform a physical exam. Your doctor may also want to do blood tests or imaging tests, such as an MRI or CAT scan of the brain, to be sure that there are no other causes for the headache. Your child may also be asked to keep a “headache diary” that will help your doctor identify any “triggers” for your child’s migraines.

What can help my child feel better?

When a migraine headache happens, your child should go to a cool, dark place and lie down with a wet cloth across his or her forehead. If the doctor has given your child a medicine for migraines, your child should take it as soon as he or she knows a headache is starting. Don’t wait! If your child has nausea, the doctor can also prescribe a medicine for that.

How can my child keep from having migraine headaches?

While there are no sure ways to keep from having migraine headaches, here are some things that may help:

  • Eat regularly and do not skip meals.
  • Keep a regular sleep schedule.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Look for things that might trigger an attack, like certain foods, stress, too much exercise or physical activity, certain activities or stress. Sometimes, life stresses are a trigger. Many psychologists can teach stress management and/or biofeedback to help your child manage stress.
  • Look for foods that might trigger an attack, like cheese, processed meats, chocolate, caffeine, MSG (a preservative in many foods), nuts or pickles. About one third of people with migraine can identify food triggers. Your child only needs to avoid eating these foods if one of them triggers headaches.

If your child has frequent migraine headaches, your doctor may prescribe a daily preventive medicine to try to make the headaches less frequent and less severe.

Here are several suggested remedies, many of which are easily made at home:

  • Take one teaspoon of almond oil and heat; when it has cooled sufficiently, place two drops of the oil in each nostril
  • Rub mixture containing one teaspoon of cinnamon oil and a quarter of a teaspoon of clove powder into the site of the pain
  • Place a wet cloth on the neck
  • Try an oil massage on your scalp; some suggested oils include sesame and almond
  • Do a headstand only if it is before dawn or after dusk and you have an empty stomach
  • Diet is also an important component in the fight against headaches.

Following are some suggestions for appeasing the vata humor:

  • Eating certain nuts or seeds that have been soaked, including almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds
  • Light squashes
  • Fiber
  • Pomegranate

Generally, warm foods that are not too dry; try cooking vegetables in olive oil

There are also many things you can do to help alleviate the symptoms and prevent future headaches from ever occurring.

  • Keeping your mind and body free from stress is very important
  • Try to maintain a proper diet; avoid things like fried foods and spicy foods
  • Do not try to suppress natural urges for things like sneezing, yawning, bathroom needs
  • Avoid sleeping during the day
  • Proper exercise and stretching
  • Try getting a massage with therapeutic oils

There is also a set of remedies for those who suffer from migraine type headaches

  • Avoid direct exposure to the sun
  • Take walks during the full moon
  • A very beneficial yoga pose for migraines is Moon Salutation
  • Practice shitali, which is a cooling breathing exercise that has many added benefits

Sometimes, according to ayurvedic medicine, where exactly the headache is occurring is actually a warning to your body that there is a problem elsewhere. By becoming familiar with what zone your headaches occur in, your practitioner will be able to determine if you are really suffering from ulcers, a kidney disorder, or something else, and the headache itself is merely a symptom.

If you suffer from frequent headaches, be sure to visit an ayurvedic practitioner who can thoroughly examine you and determine a specific treatment plan with your particular needs in mind.


This is the most commonly prescribed Ayurvedic drug for treating migraine. It is not just a preventive but also a curative means.

Ingredients: Many items are used to prepare this medication. These elements are borax and sulphur in the ‘bhasma’ form, sulphur, copper, gold and mercury.

Moreover, 10 medicinal plants and drugs (extracted from animal sources) are added to the mixture.

Besides, two other strong drugs (which are poisonous in their raw forms) – Dhatura and Vatsanabha – are processed to make them not only potent but also pure. After processing, these two drugs are made free from having any side effects on a patient.

All of these are mixed in definite ratios. To this mixture is added Bhringaraja juice.

Dose: It is given in the dose of 125 milligram twice daily. The medication is to be taken with milk.


This is a rather inexpensive but effective Ayurvedic medication for patients suffering from migraine.

Dose: It is given in the dose of one gram thrice daily. The medication is to be taken with honey.


This Ayurvedic medicated oil is quite effective in treating migraine. This medication irritates the nasal mucous membrane. However, it effects instant relief.

Ingredient: This drug is to be taken with mustard oil.

Dose : Only six drops are to be taken in each nostril daily and till the symptoms persist.


Proper use of this oil brings about instant relief to acute and chronic migraine instances.

This medicated oil needs to be inhaled deeply to induce forced sneezing. It removes the nasal blockages from the sinuses and their passages. The nerves in the nasal routes are soothed.

Even as the mental strain is removed, the heaviness in the head is also relieved. The patient will be able to sleep soundly. Above all, there are no side effects.

Ingredients : It is prepared from 26 medicinal plants. The definite proportions of these plants are then boiled in goat’s milk and gingelly oil.

Dose : One needs to drop at least 15 drops of this oil in each nostril to induce sneezing. This medicated oil needs to be inhaled at least thrice daily.

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