Story by: Kim Huston on September 3, 2021
Migraine headaches can start at any age, affecting babies and toddlers. There are many differences in symptoms children and adults. What can parents do to spot a migraine and get your child relief?
Although migraine headaches most commonly occur in teens and young adults, the attacks can start early in life and have been reported in about 3% of preschool-age children. Likewise, migraine headaches have been reported in babies and toddlers, and some researchers believe that colic may be a sign of migraine in newborns, or at least a warning sign of migraine attacks later in life. Migraine symptoms include nausea, vomiting and/or sensitivities to light and sound that can last for up to three days. However, these symptoms may not be as obvious or could be mistaken for other conditions when they appear in children.
There are many differences between how children and adults experience a migraine with or without aura. Aura is usually visual disturbances such as flashing lights, but can also be sensory, motor or verbal disturbances. Some of the most notable migraine differences in children include:
It’s crucial to talk to your pediatrician about migraine symptoms your child may experience as soon as you recognize them. Getting referred to a pediatric migraine specialist can help your child get a migraine diagnosis, which can help him or her find relief from pain. Episodic headaches can morph into chronic, daily headaches if left untreated. The diagnosis of a migraine headache is based on your child’s health history. Blood tests and brain scans do not help to diagnose a migraine. Often, parents are diagnosed with migraine after their child’s diagnosis; a parent may have dismissed his or her own “sinus headaches,” when the parent was really dealing with migraine.
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Your health care provider team may order additional tests for your child if there are features of the headache that raise concerns for a different type of headache.
Reasons to seek immediate evaluation by your pediatrician or an emergency department include:
Migraine is often are under diagnosed in children, but it is a major cause of disability that can cause kids to miss school and activities, and can affect quality of life. Many children outgrow migraine, but about a third of children will continue to experience migraine headaches as an adult.