Ten percent of children and adolescents under fifteen years of age suffer from severe headaches. Researchers suspect that the number may actually be higher as children’s headaches are difficult to diagnose and are often dismissed as fatigue or just “crankiness.” Young children may have difficulty explaining their symptoms to parents or doctors, making an accurate diagnosis even more difficult. Any family history of migraines should be reported to your health professional.
Until puberty, children’s headaches affect boys and girls at an equal rate. During adolescence, however, headaches in young women become much more common than in their male counterparts. Childhood migraines often go away with age, but may come back later in life.
Symptoms in Children
Symptoms in children and teens differ in some ways from those of adults. With a few exceptions, children’s headaches are fortunately shorter in duration than those of adults. While young children usually experience pain on both sides of the head, teenagers, like adults, tend to experience the pain on only one side of the head.
Common symptoms include:
Some forms of childhood migraine do not involve headaches. An abdominal migraine is characterized by recurrent vomiting, severe abdominal pain and stomach upset. Episodes may last for an hour or more, interspersed with periods of normal health.
Also called cyclic vomiting, abdominal migraine episodes peak in frequency between five and nine years. A diagnosis is made, in part, by ruling out other possible stomach ailments.
Common in children, a basilar migraine occurs when the basilar artery spasms. The artery is located in the brainstem. Visual aura often occur with a basilar migraine. The visual disturbances start in one eye, and then gradually spread to cover the entire field of vision. Nausea, vomiting, vertigo, visual difficulties and muscle weakness are all symptoms.
Motion Sickness and Sleepwalking
Statistically, children who suffer from migraines are more likely to suffer from motion sickness and sleepwalking: 45 percent suffer from motion sickness, and 28 percent exhibit somnambulism (sleepwalking) symptoms.