Caring for a Child with Migraine
By the American Migraine Foundation
Editor’s Note: The following is reprinted with permission from the American Migraine Foundation. Visit the American Migraine Foundation web site to download a copy of the full guide, which includes additional information on pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments.
Nothing hurts more than seeing your child in pain. Between four and ten percent of children experience migraine, and kids display different symptoms than adults. Early diagnosis, an open dialogue and specialized treatment plan can equip you and your child with the tools to best manage their migraine.
Maintain a Dialogue
An ongoing dialogue with your child is critical to getting an accurate diagnosis and finding a treatment plan that works. Your child’s migraine management plan will evolve as they grow older and their daily routines change. Being able to talk about migraine openly will help you adapt as a team.
Find a Common Language
Younger children might have a hard time describing their symptoms. Use non-verbal cues, like pointing to your tummy or making pained facial expressions, to find out where and how severe their pain is.
Keep Your Focus on Them
It can be scary when your child is having severe pain or other migraine symptoms, but kids will pick up on your anxiety and it can add to their stress. Put on a brave face, offer your child reassurance and empathy, and seek the consolation you need from your own support systems.
Work Together to Find Solutions
Involve your child in the process of finding a headache specialist and devising a treatment plan. It can be as simple as asking them what they thought of a new doctor after a first meeting, or keeping track of healthy behaviors and rewarding them for practicing good headache hygiene.
Leave the Conversation Open-Ended
A diagnosis and treatment plan are only the beginning. Encourage your child to keep you informed about their symptoms, and invite any questions or concerns they have about their medication or daily routine. Then, work together to find alternatives, and get the whole family involved in following through.
Establish Healthy Habits
Establishing a healthy routine is essential for the migraine brain, so it’s recommended that parents sit down with their children and discuss fundamental healthy habits.
Children should be sleeping a minimum of nine hours a night, while teenagers should get at least eight hours. Discourage your child from taking naps or staying up past their bedtimes.
Work with your child to make sure they don’t skip breakfast and have access to three well-balanced meals a day. They should also drink enough water; eight 8-ounce glasses a day is a good rule of thumb.
Get the whole family involved: track how much water each family member is drinking, sit down for dinner together every night, and establish regular bedtimes for everyone.
Finding a Headache Doctor
When it comes to caring for your child with migraine, you are not alone. A headache specialist plays a critical role in any migraine management strategy and can help you and your child explore your options and find an effective treatment plan. Visit americanmigrainefoundation.org to find a headache specialist near you to get your child the treatment and care they deserve.
About the American Migraine Foundation
The American Migraine Foundation provides education, support and resources for the millions of men, women and children living with migraine. Our mission is to advance migraine research, promote patient advocacy and expand access to care for patients worldwide. Migraine, and other disabling diseases that cause severe head pain, impact more than 37 million people in the United States alone. By educating caregivers and giving patients the tools to advocate for themselves, we have cultivated a movement that gives a collective voice to the migraine community. For more information, please visit www.americanmigrainefoundation.org. Together we are as relentless as migraine.