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Care Guidelines
By SCOTT WESSELS; ANGHARAD CHESTER-JONES

Migraine Treatment in Children and Teens

Highlights from new guidelines released by the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society.

Child with a migraine headache

 

What do the pediatric migraine treatment guidelines recommend?

The guidelines, which were released in August 2019, are a summary of research on treatments for migraine in children and teens. They include recommendations that help guide doctors and other health care providers when they are working with patients, or with patients and families, to make decisions about their health care.

These new guidelines describe treatment options to stop or lessen pain and other symptoms of a migraine attack in children and teens. They also looked at treatments to prevent or reduce the frequency of pediatric migraine attacks. The guidelines outline the use of evidence-based treatments in children and teens that are effective for treating pain from migraine attacks. However, the guidelines highlight that there is little evidence to guide treatment of the other symptoms of pediatric migraine attacks such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. See the summary for patients and families for more information about the evidence and recommendations in these guidelines.

What is migraine?

Migraine is a biological disorder of the brain. Its exact cause is unknown. Symptoms consist of recurring headaches and other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. It is common, occurring in around 10% of children and teens.

What are some triggers for migraine in children and teens?

Migraine triggers for teens and children are no different than triggers for adults. Migraine attacks can be triggered by:

  • Stress
  • Hormones
  • Bright lights
  • Fatigue
  • Certain kinds of food
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Being overweight
  • Caffeine intake
  • Alcohol use
  • Poor sleep habits
  • Exposure to tobacco
  • Mood disorders, such as depression

Developing healthy lifestyle habits of eating a nutritionally balanced diet, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, and getting enough regular sleep can address many of these issues.

What should I know about treating my child’s migraine?

Children and adolescents with headache should be evaluated by a clinician. It is important to note that headache pain does not have to be severe to be related to a migraine. The evaluation should include a careful review of medical history and general physical, and neurologic exams to diagnose migraine and rule out other causes. During the evaluation, the clinician should teach you and your child how to treat migraine, and note the importance of treating an attack as soon as your child feels it starting. Your clinician should also help you understand how to identify and avoid migraine triggers.

Read the full summary of the guidelines for patients and their families.