When most people consider migraines, they tend to think of them as an adult problem. However, up to 10 percent of children experience migraines, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. The first episode often strikes by the time the child is 12 years old, however, the foundation reported that they may occur much sooner – even infants may experience migraines.
Migraine isn't just a term for a bad headache, it is actually a neurological disease that results in a host of symptoms apart from head pain, including nausea, vomiting, dizziness, abdominal pain, mood changes and sensitivity to touch, sound, light and odors. It is a potentially serious condition that can distract children from performing well in school and may even cause them to become socially withdrawn. Pharmacy Times reported that children who experience migraines typically have twice the absentee rate as children who do not.
The stages of a migraine
Migraines consist of four separate and distinct stages, however, not all people who experience them will experience every stage, according to Pharmacy Times. The stages are prodrome, optical migraine, attack phase and postdrome.
Prodrome: In this stage, which occurs a day or so before the migraine begins, people may experience subtle symptoms that warn them of the approaching migraine. These symptoms include constipation, depression, food cravings, hyperactivity, irritability, neck stiffness and the uncontrollable urge to yawn.
Optical migraine: This stage, sometimes referred to as the aura stage, can occur immediately before or during a migraine and include visual symptoms such as blurred vision, flashing lights and zig zag lines or trails. Approximately two-thirds of migraine patients report experiencing this stage, which may last anywhere from 20 minutes to one hour.
Attack phase: This is the main stage of a migraine experienced by all migraine patients. It includes extreme head pain, often accompanied by a number of various side effects. The most common include feelings of dizziness and fatigue, and many patients have reported fainting during this time.
Postdrome: The last phase of a migraine is physical fatigue that varies in extremity and can often feel debilitating. Many patients report this feeling lasting up to a day or two after the migraine has faded.
The relationship between migraines and gender in children
While migraines may occur in any child at any point, there does seem to be a relationship between gender and incidences of migraine.
Boys tend to experience more migraines than girls before puberty, with the average onset at 7 years old. For girls, instances of migraine tend to increase after puberty, with an average onset age of 11.
By age 17, approximately 23 percent of girls and just 8 percent of boys report having experienced migraines. Medical scientists associate the increased rate of migraine in post-pubescent girls with an increase in estrogen levels.
For both boys and girls, those who report migraines during adolescence are 60 percent more likely to experience them after the age of 30. Once again, female patients are more likely to be affected.
Parents of children who are affected by migraines should seek the help of a medical professional for treatment options. While the cause of the condition isn't known, there are treatments that may help to relieve symptoms. FLAVORx makes medicinal flavorings that can help children take their medicine. Ask your pharmacist how you can get your child's prescription in his or her favorite flavor.