Illnesses & Symptoms
Migraines and Other Headaches
Many kids have occasional headaches. Some have frequent headaches, and some can have migraines. A migraine headache is a type of headache that has many different forms.
- There is no "cure" for migraines. The treatment is to reduce the number and severity of attacks (headaches).
- It helps to identify triggers that lead to migraines and to set a normal daily routine with enough rest, activity and balanced diet.
- Migraines are not dangerous, even if you feeling bad from the headache or are vomiting. With no treatment, the headache will go away on its own.
- Most attacks last less than one day. Some may go on for several days.
- Tests such as CT scans, MRI and blood tests are not needed with typical headache histories and a normal examination. If you are having other symptoms or are getting worse, the doctor may order additional tests.
Triggers of migraine headaches
- Getting too much or too little sleep.
- Skipping meals, especially breakfast.
- Having to think or physically work really hard.
- Overworking or a daily schedule that is too busy so there's not enough time to rest.
- After a period of excitement, stress or exertion.
- Certain chemicals in foods such as nuts, cheese, lunchmeats, and chocolate.
- Caffeine can both cause and treat migraines.
- Changes in weather.
- Common life stresses such as a new school, changes in home.
- Keeping a diary of all foods and drinks eaten, sleep habits, and other triggers above linked to headache symptoms can help identify which things trigger your migraines.
Treatment plan for migraine headache management strategy should include
- Lifestyle adjustments to prevent headaches.
- Magnesium and riboflavin have been shown to help prevent migraines. Talk to your doctor about supplement dosing.
- How to deal with acute attacks.
- How to handle acute attacks that do not respond to first line medication treatment or therapy.
What to do if you have a migraine headache
- Try to take a nap in a quiet (possibly dark) place. Sleep will usually relieve the migraine.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. These may help if given early before nausea occurs, but overuse can lead to rebound headaches. We recommend using pain relievers 10 times or less each month.
- Your doctor may prescribe medication for nausea.
- Your doctor may prescribe medication specifically for a migraine.
Using a headache calendar is very helpful to you and your doctor. It lets the doctor know the pattern of the headaches (how often, how severe), what medication you took and whether or not the medication works. It can also identify triggers, which you can then avoid to prevent another attack. Be sure to bring the headache calendar with you to your doctor's appointment. Also, have it to refer to when you talk to your doctor or nurse over the telephone.
Things to note on the headache calendar include:
Make Teachers Aware
Your teachers (and school nurse) need to be aware of your headaches and treatment plan. Let the doctor know if he needs to write a note for you to receive medication at school. We can provide a Headache Action Plan for home and school at your visit.
Using too much pain reliever can trigger rebound headaches and cause preventive medications to not work. Be sure to tell your doctor about all medications that you take, even non-prescription medication.
Learning stress management and relaxation techniques may help with your headaches. Check out free mindfulness apps on your smartphone. Talk with your doctor about these techniques.
- Time headache started.
- What the headache felt like and where it hurt.
- Medication that you took (name of medication, the time it was taken and how much medication was taken).
- When the headache went away.
- Foods and drinks eaten/drunk.
- Amount of sleep nightly.
- Activity you are doing when the pain starts.
- Noises present when the pain starts.
- Anything you might think triggered the pain.
If your headaches happen often, are very severe, or both, your doctor may prescribe a daily medication to prevent the headaches. All of these medications help to reduce the frequency and severity of the migraines. If you are having frequent migraines, this may be an option, but check your insurance formulary plan prior to your office visit so you know the preferred medicines.
Common causes of poor headache control include:
Not making changes in your daily life
Sleep, diet, activity level, exercise, stress.
Not giving the medication a chance to work
A medication trial can take at least 4-6 weeks.
The wrong dose of medication
Your medication dose may need to be adjusted and readjusted depending on side effects and response to headaches.
Thinking that only taking medications will make the headaches go away
There needs to be some lifestyle changes along with taking medication as directed.
- Family stress (death, birth, divorce)
- Self-image concerns
- School stress
Social problems and/or peer pressure
For more information:
A great headache resource guide is found at www.headachereliefguide.com. You can learn a lot about headaches and develop a plan to treat them with their resources.