23 September, 2020
Approximate reading time: 4 minutes
You are about to set off on a family holiday and your child complains of a headache. You have migraines so you begin to wonder - or rather stress - could this be a migraine?
Yes - migraines do occur in kids. It's more common however for kids to have headaches from tension in the neck and jaw (Managing childhood migraine, 2020).
Migraine Headaches in Kids
Like adults, children can experience migraines with intense head pain. In school kids, these may start with headaches on both sides of the head. As teenagers, these typically localise to one side.
Pain may be expressed in behavioural changes, particularly in younger kids, like head banging, irritability, crying or rocking.
Symptoms of childhood migraines:
- Loss of balance
- Stomach pain
- Sensitive to lights & sounds
- Other sensory sensitivities like headbanging, rocking or disliking certain smells
Triggers for migraines in kids:
- Muscle tension
- Certain foods
- Missed meals
- Relaxing after stress / exercise
- Bright or flicking lights
- Loud noises
Infantile Torticollis & Migraines
A head tilt or maybe slight neck rotation is called torticollis or Wry neck. Some babies are born with it and others develop it in their first year of life.
Some babies have episodes of torticollis - where the neck bends or turns but only for short periods. Between these episodes, there is no signs of torticollis. Just the same as a migraine has attacks and then symptom free phases.
These rare attacks are classified as a condition associated with migraines. They may resolve or these kids may grow up suffering with more typical migraine attacks. This would typically be diagnosed by the paediatrician.
Childhood Vertigo & Migraines
Healthy children can experience attacks of sudden onset vertigo. The vertigo typically lasts minutes to a few hours. Between these vertigo attacks, they are completely normal and well.
Vertigo attacks may appear with pale colouring, losing coordination, vomiting, being forgetful or having darting eyes (nystagmus).
In young children, it may be difficult to know that it's vertigo, but the other signs can be present.
It's thought that these attacks may be related to a particular type of migraine called vestibular migraines. These kids should consult their paediatrician / neurologist for a diagnosis.
Colic and Migraines
What is Colic?
Colic affects one in five babies. They typically cry for 3+ hours a day, 3+ days a week for 3+ weeks.
It's difficult for new and tired parents to know what to do to help their unsettled child.
Colicky babies are more likely to develop migraines later in life (Zhang et al. 2019).
Additionally, parents who have migraines are more likely to have colicky babies. That's from both the mother and father.
I think my child has migraines, what do I do?
It's important to get the right diagnosis first. Migraines are complicated and as you can see here, they can present in lots of different ways.
Speak to your GP or paediatrician about your concerns. They'll ask questions and maybe do some tests like shining a light in the eyes and testing muscle reflexes. Once they have a good idea what's going on, they'll give you a diagnosis.
Your GP or paediatrician may offer medication or recommend you try other options first.
Other forms of treatment may include:
- Addressing sleep difficulties
- Finding dietary triggers
- Treating tension in the body
- Coping with stress
At Body & Brain Centre, we offer these therapies which may be of interest to you:
- Kids can suffer migraines but commonly in an atypical fashion like stomach pain, vertigo or torticollis.
- Colic may be associated with migraines later in life.
- Treatment for childhood migraines should address the triggers.
- Diagnosis should be made by your doctor.
About the Author
Dr Cassie Atkinson-Quinton - Paediatric-Trained Chiropractor & Paediatric Sleep Coach
Dr Cassie is a paediatric-trained chiropractor, sleep coach and, most importantly, mumma to Master H. She loves seeing newborns grow into inquisitive toddlers and busy school kids. She assesses for neurological development (primitive reflexes), posture, sleep health and movement patterns. She's an eager learning just like the kids she sees.
"It's better to grow healthy children than fix injured adults."
Similar articles you'll enjoy:
- A1.6.4 Infantile colic - ICHD-3 The International Classification of Headache Disorders 3rd edition. (2019, June 30). Retrieved June 1, 2020, from https://ichd-3.org/appendix/a1-migraine/a1-6-episodic-syndromes-that-may-be-associated-with-migraine/a1-6-4-infantile-colic/
- Ayatollahi SM, Khosravi A. Prevalence of migraine and tension-type headache in primary-school children in Shiraz. EMHJ-Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal, 12 (6), 809-817, 2006. 2006.
- Gelfand AA (2015). Episodic Syndromes That May Be Associated With Migraine: A.K.A. "the Childhood Periodic Syndromes". Headache. 2015;55(10):1358‐1364. doi:10.1111/head.12624
- Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. 2020. Managing Childhood Migraine. [online] Available at: <https://www.racgp.org.au/afp/2015/june/managing-childhood-migraine/> [Accessed 19 July 2020].
- Zhang D, Zhang Y, Sang Y, Zheng N & Liu X (2019). The Relationship between Infant Colic and Migraine as well as Tension-Type Headache: A Meta-Analysis. Pain Res Manag. 2019;2019:8307982. Published 2019 Jun 16. doi:10.1155/2019/8307982