Michael van Straten
Michael van Straten

Kids Get Migraine Too

When a child regularly complains of tummy ache and feeling sick just as it's time to go to school, it's all too easy to think they just fancy a day off. Before you push them on to the bus with a flea in the ear, think again - it may be migraine.

Children get migraine too and though it's not surprising that parents find it difficult to recognise the symptoms, it is surprising and also extremely alarming how many doctors fail to identify this condition early on. Problems arise because childhood migraine does not always follow the normal pattern of this condition, and in fact headache may not be present at all. Up to the age of puberty migraine is far more common in boys than girls, but these figures are rapidly reversed once puberty is reached and cyclic changes in female hormone levels start to have their effect.

The most common early symptoms in young children are those that affect the stomach - nausea, stomach ache and vomiting. The intensity of these attacks can be so severe, sometimes lasting up to 48 hours that it's not so long ago that youngsters used to die as a result of severe dehydration. It wasn't until the middle 1960s that the medical profession accepted that children could and did suffer from migraine.

Before then the symptoms were normally described as growing pains or grumbling appendix. Sadly these labels are still sometimes attached to youngsters with recurrent and regular episodes of these symptoms. The truth is that around 80 percent who experience this wretched problem as children will end up as adult migraine sufferers.

Parents should always be suspicious when their child develops periodic episodes of severe tummy ache with or without nausea and vomiting. One of the great problems is that small children find it difficult to explain their symptoms and this becomes even more of an issue when very young children - as early as one year old - develop the problem. A family history of migraine is often a key pointer as it's rare to find a child sufferer who has not got a relative within three generations who did not also have the illness.

Though it is true that psychological factors like stress or anxiety can trigger attacks, it's important to understand that migraine is a neurological disease and not a psychological disorder. It's all too common even with children for migraineurs to be prescribed antidepressants or mood enhancing drugs or even to be referred to a psychiatrist. If you suspect that your child has it, it is essential to get medical advice, but taking the right action and being aware of the triggers that affect your child can be as effective if not more so than just taking prescribed medication.

How To Spot The Child With Migraine

Generally speaking, young children have slightly different symptoms than adult sufferers from migraine, here's what to look for:

  • The first symptom noticed by many parents is pallor, greyness and sweating, often a forerunner of all the other symptoms. This is the time to take early action - plenty of fluids including ginger tea to prevent vomiting and lying down in a quiet dark room may stop the attack in its tracks.

  • recurrent episodes of severe abdominal pain (abdominal migraine), which may or may not be accompanied by

  • severe nausea and/or vomiting

  • dizzy spells

  • if there is headache it's usually on both sides of the head in younger children but one side only by the teens

  • diarrhoea may accompany the other symptoms

  • sweating, thirst and frequent passing of urine

  • sensitivity to light, sound and smells

  • visual disturbances like flashing lights and zig zags, together with numbness in the face or arms are common in adults but less so in children

All or just some of these symptoms may be present but if they recur on a regular basis then it's likely that your child has migraine.

How To Help Your Child

The first thing you should do is keep a careful diary in which you make a note of:

  • the date and time of each episode

  • a list of the symptoms

  • for girls keep a note of the day their period starts

  • write down any factors which you think could have triggered the attack; these may include specific foods, especially cheese, chocolate, oranges, caffeine or any others that you think likely. Chemical additives to food can be a major hazard particularly MSG and some artificial food colours and flavours

  • any specific activities like playing computer games, watching TV, going to the cinema, energetic sport, long journeys or stressful activities like exams or interviews

  • prolonged periods without food and not drinking enough fluids are common factors that cause attacks to begin and are both easily avoided

A frequently ignored factor in migraine is the heightened sensory awareness of sufferers. They're likely to be more sensitive to light, smells, noise, taste, and touch, so it's important to be aware of all of these. Most of the triggers can be controlled by older children or parents but the weather is out of our control and can be an important contributor to the illness. A sudden fall in atmospheric pressure, very hot humid weather or strong south-easterly winds have all been found to trigger attacks of migraine. Sadly we can't change the weather but keeping an eye on the forecast can prepare you for what's to come and if, for example, thunderstorms are on their way it's probably a good time to keep your child at home and resting quietly.

Complementary therapies can be extremely effective in the treatment of childhood migraine and excellent results can be achieved with cranial osteopathy, osteopathy and acupuncture.

A naturopath will advise on specific dietary regimes that help and relaxation techniques like biofeedback, massage and yoga are treatments which most children enjoy and are also helpful.

Some of the relaxing herbs are worth trying too and can be given to children as weak teas sweetened with a little honey. Camomile, lime blossom, and lemon balm are all worth a try. Massages to the head, neck and shoulders are a wonderful way of giving soothing relief to the suffering child. Professional treatments are terrific but any parent can learn to do it for their own children with the help of one of the many excellent books, the best of which have been written by Clare Maxwell-Hudson, quite old but worth finding.

MigraHerbFor the older teens and adults, one of the most effective plants is Feverfew. You can grow this attractive shrub in your garden and eat a daily sandwich made with a couple of leaves, but for an exact dose of the active ingredients you need MigraHerb, the only MHRA registered Feverfew product in the UK.

As a traditional herbal medicine to prevent migraine, it should be taken for three months to get the best results.

More info at: www.migraherb.co.uk


Some of my books...

Sign up for my e-mail newsletter:


10 Day Detox With Kim WildeMichael Van Straten's 10 Day Detox With Kim Wilde

"In this video, we will take you through a series of easy to follow and achievable steps. You too can safely and effectively lose weight as well as significantly increase energy levels".

Migraine Misery?


MigraHerb® Feverfew capsules.

MigraHerb® is a traditional herbal medicinal product used for the prevention of migraine headaches exclusively based upon long-standing use as a traditional remedy. Always read the label.

tickLessens frequency and severity of migraine attacks

tickFor people who have a doctor's diagnosis for this condition

MigraHerb® 30 one-a-day capsules.
Normally £8.16
NOW £6.90
Save £1.26.

» For more information visit www.migraherb.co.uk

De-stress and Energise!


Vitano® Rhodiola rosea tablets.

Vitano® is a traditional herbal medicinal product used for the temporary relief of symptoms associated with stress, such as fatigue, exhaustion and mild anxiety, based on traditional use only. Always read the label.

tickHelps revive both mental and physical performance

tickBalances a hectic lifestyle... naturally!

Vitano® 30 tablets normally £13.27
NOW £9.90 - Save £3.37.
Multi-buy deal also available.

» For more information visit www.vitano.co.uk

Not Sleeping?


NiteHerb® Valerian tablets.

NiteHerb® is a traditional herbal medicinal product used for the temporary relief of sleep disturbances due to symptoms of mild anxiety exclusively based on long-standing use as a traditional remedy. Always read the label.

tickA natural solution to a good night's sleep

tickWake up revived - not groggy!

NiteHerb® 30 tablets normally £6.12
NOW £5.20 - Save £0.92.
Multi-buy deal also available.

» For more information visit www.niteherb.co.uk