Health Roundup " How do I know if it’s a migraine? |

Health Roundup " How do I know if it’s a migraine?

Tami Griffith
Health Round Up
Grand County, Colorado

My child complains of headaches on occasion. How do I know if it is a migraine?

Children usually present with a “migraine’ headache with similar symptoms that an adult would exhibit. These can include an “aura” before the headache even begins. The child may complain of spots before their eyes or blurred vision. Other symptoms include: a throbbing headache, either unilateral or bilateral, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines may last for a few hours to three days.

Approximately 5 percent of grade school children and 20 percent of adolescents experience migraines. They are more common in girls than boys. If there is a family history of migraines, this may make your child more prone to these headaches as well.

If your child begins to experience headaches, schedule an appointment with their primary care provider for evaluation. Your provider can often diagnose migraines based on the symptoms alone and offer different forms of treatment, which could include anything from dietary changes to medication. However, depending on the medical history, your provider may decide to obtain blood work and possibly a Head CT Scan as well.

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What causes a migraine?

Most studies indicate that a change in the serotonin level in the body cause migraines.

When serotonin levels increase, blood vessels constrict. This causes blood and oxygen flow to the brain to decrease. The body then responds by decreasing the serotonin levels and the vessels dilate or swell, causing a throbbing headache.

Other research shows that individuals with migraines tend to have a nervous system that is more sensitive to the environment .

What things might “trigger” a headache?

Certain foods can trigger migraines. These include aged cheese and wine, deli meats or any foods with nitrates, soy sauce, MSG, seasoned salt, chocolate, pickled foods, aspartame ” in diet drinks and foods, and beans including lima, pole, navy and pinto beans. Other physical factors such as stress, fatigue, and hormone changes such as menstruation can also cause the onset of migraines. Weather and change in altitude as well as various external stimulus including perfume, bright light, flashing light, and loud noise can also contribute to migraines.

How can I help my child avoid these headaches?

Keep a headache diary. Include in this diary: the frequency of headaches, environmental exposure, food intake, hormonal changes, and stress noted. This will help in pinpointing triggers for your child. Make sure your child gets plenty of rest as well as a healthy diet including adequate fluid, protein, fruits, and vegetables.

How are migraines treated?

Over the counter medicine such Ibuprofen or Naproxen are often effective in the treatment of migraines in children. Try giving your child the medicine with a caffeinated drink such as cola or cocoa as soon as symptoms start. Place your child in a quiet, darkened room, encourage sleep, and provide a cool compress for the pain. Anti-nausea medicine can be given to assist with those symptoms as well.

Biofeedback has been used in the treatment of migraines in some individuals with positive results as well. Biofeedback “teaches” relaxation techniques that enable the person to remain calm and stop the headache.

If your child has frequent headaches, your provider may decide to place your child on a preventative medicine such as Amitriptyline. Amitriptyline is an anti-depressant medication that has been proven effective in the prevention of migraines in children when taken on a regular basis.

If your child experiences headaches, try the above recommendations and schedule an appointment with your primary care provider for further evaluation.

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