Migraine Symptoms in Children

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Meet the Migraine Headaches Team

Migraine symptoms can be a disruptive part of any child’s life, and unfortunately, they are relatively common among children. Migraine attacks occur in about 10% of children ages 5 to 15 and in nearly one-third of teenagers. Migraine can cause children to miss school or extracurricular activities and can impact their overall enjoyment of life.

Relief from migraine symptoms may be within reach for your child.

At Norton Children’s Neuroscience Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, we believe your child deserves to be migraine-free and feel like they can be a kid again. We are the leading provider of migraine care for kids in Louisville and across Kentucky and Southern Indiana. Our multidisciplinary team, which includes neurologists and psychologists, leads with expertise and compassion to help treat children with migraine.

We will work together to determine what’s causing your child’s migraine symptoms and create a treatment plan that minimizes the risk of migraine attacks. We offer a variety of treatments tailored to each child’s individual needs. These include some of the latest approved treatments to help prevent migraine, plus preventive and rescue medications.

Migraine can be caused by different factors, including genetics and lifestyle. We will conduct a thorough medical history and exam, and continue to evaluate your child at regular visits to monitor their migraine attacks and quality of life.

Migraine Symptoms in Children

Migraine symptoms usually are more severe than a routine headache, and can include dizziness, nausea, and sensitivity to light, noise or smells. Most migraine attacks last from 30 minutes to several hours; some can last a couple of days.

For many children, migraine pain is strong enough to miss school, sports or work until the migraine subsides. Physical activities can make the pain worse, and some kids who try to continue with their usual routine during a migraine may become nauseous and vomit.

Migraine symptoms in kids are very similar to symptoms in adults, and since a tendency toward migraine may be passed from parent to child, parents already may know some of the signs.

In the Louisville and Ohio Valley area, where seasonal allergies are common, those who experience migraine sometimes dismiss the condition as sinus headaches. Mistreating migraine can lead to worse attacks, and early treatment — especially during childhood — often provides greater relief.

Sometimes migraine attacks come with warning signs. Kids and teens may notice feeling “not right” a few hours or days before a migraine attack. They might crave different foods or feel thirsty, irritable, tired or even full of energy.

Some kids experience migraine with “aura” — this migraine symptom starts just before the headache and lasts up to an hour. An aura can include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Seeing spots, colored balls, jagged lines or bright flashing lights
  • Tingling in a part of their face or body

When Is a Migraine an Emergency?

Headaches can be a condition on their own or a sign of something else, called a secondary headache. Headaches could be a symptom of an underlying condition that needs advanced treatment and should be brought to a health care provider’s attention right away.

Migraine rarely is associated with a serious or life-threatening disease, such as infection or stroke. Reasons to seek immediate medical attention include:

  • Thunderclap headache – A headache that is severe within a few minutes of onset
  • Positional headache – A headache that changes significantly depending on whether the child is lying down or standing up
  • Headache that starts after a trauma or whiplash (sometimes as minor as a sneeze or cough)
  • Headache that wakes the child from sleep at night
  • Headache associated with other symptoms, such as weight loss, fever or rash
  • Headache with neurological symptoms that affect a part of the body, such as weakness or paralysis
  • Changes in thinking or speech during a headache

Why Norton Children’s Neuroscience Institute?

  • The Norton Children’s Hospital Comprehensive Epilepsy Center is a Level 4 epilepsy center, the highest rating available from the National Association of Epilepsy Centers. Norton Children’s Hospital has held this designation since 2013.
  • We are the first in Kentucky and among the first in the nation to use neurostimulation in a pediatric patient.
  • Regional neurology care is available for children across Kentucky and Southern Indiana. We travel to clinics in Bowling Green, Campbellsville, Corbin, Elizabethtown, Frankfort, Owensboro and Paducah, Kentucky; and Evansville, Indiana. We also perform a number of telemedicine visits each week.
  • The specialists with Norton Children’s Neuroscience Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, use state-of-the-art technology to treat epilepsy, uncontrollable seizures and deep brain tumors in children who, in the past, would not be candidates for surgery, including:
    • Visualase: Technology that allows neurosurgeons to perform MRI-guided laser ablation surgery. Fewer than two dozen pediatric hospitals in the U.S. offer this technology.
    • Surgical Theater: Virtual reality technology that creates an immersive 3D view of a patient’s brain, allowing neurosurgeons, the patient and family to see inside the skull and brain to get a greater understanding of the condition and impact of potential procedures. Norton Children’s Hospital is the first hospital in the region to use this technology.
  • We offer dedicated multidisciplinary clinics for brain tumors, traumatic brain injuries, spina bifida, craniofacial injuries and disorders, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, spasticity, headache/migraine, autism and neurocutaneous disorders.
  • Our multidisciplinary craniofacial program was the first established in the Midwest.
  • We offer a neurogenetics clinic to evaluate and treat children with neurogenetic syndromes.
  • We have a neuropsychology program that specializes in the evaluation of children and teens with a variety of neurological, neurodevelopmental and medical conditions, including brain tumors and epilepsy.
  • Outpatient neurology facilities in downtown Louisville are equipped with in-office electroencephalography (EEG) capabilities and laboratory services in the same building, creating a streamlined, family-centered environment.
  • We offer the region’s first clinic to treat children with immune-mediated neurological disorders.

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