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MissAusten's avatar

Kids and migraines: What are your experiences?

Asked by MissAusten (16152points) June 10th, 2010

My 11 year old daughter has been getting migraines from time to time over the past year (maybe five or six so far). Sometimes she gets the classic pounding headache with vomiting, other times she first gets strange visual or physical symptoms followed by the headache, and sometimes she is able to nip it in the bud when she feels strange by taking a long nap, which seems to prevent the headache.

I’ve never had migraines and find her symptoms very scary. For example, today I picked her up from school because she’d gone to the nurse saying she had a sudden headache in her forehead, followed by “messed up peripheral vision in one eye.” Her words. She also had trouble articulating, as if most of what she wanted to say was right on the tip of her tongue but wouldn’t come out right. She’s been asleep for two hours now, and I suspect she will feel fine when she wakes up. Other times she has suddenly felt exhausted, or like her limbs were too heavy. Once the headache kicks in, if she isn’t able to sleep before it starts, she has the sensitivity to light and noise.

We are going to the doctor this afternoon, but I’m wondering if other migraine sufferers can share their experiences with getting through them, recognizing when a migraine is coming on, treating them, and possibly having them as a child or preteen and outgrowing them. I looked up a lot of information about migraines, and all of her symptoms are recognized as things that can show up just prior to a migraine.

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27 Answers

meagan's avatar

Has she been tested for mono? When I was in the 6th grade, I had migraines so terribly. I was taken out of school for like, three months. I had a really bad case of mono and couldn’t even take gym for a while, not to mention I lost an insane amount of weight. Because of my loss of appetite and I was probably sleeping 16 hours a day.
I had never been so sick. It just makes you feel terrible.

I still get tension headaches, or migraines some days. I’m on topamax and it really works wonders. When I take my medication, I rarely get any kind of headache at all.

augustlan's avatar

I had them in my teens and early adulthood (well, I still do… just not often), and my almost 16 year old has had them for years. For a long while, she took Advil (or was it Aleve?) every day as a preventative. She also has prescription medication to take at the onset, and usually that helps lessen the effects. A little while ago, she had constant dizziness, and the brain doctor said it was part of the migraine syndrome. He prescribed something else for her (can’t remember the name of it right now), and it really helped a lot. I’ll send her this question, and maybe she’ll have more to say (hopefully including the names of the meds she takes!). Hope your girl gets the help she needs to feel better!

I took Topamax, too, and it gave me some serious side effects. Just to be on the safe side, they didn’t prescribe that for my daughter.

Cruiser's avatar

My now 14 year old has had virtually identical episodes and symptoms. Our pediatrician calls them cluster headaches and says just part of his makeup. Treat the symptoms with Ibuprofen is all we do. I don’t recall him vomiting though but the other symptoms are identical. I associate his headaches with stress and too much computer/video but really not sure what the triggers may be. Scary stuff for sure, good luck at the doc’s!

MissAusten's avatar

Thanks for the comments. I held off on giving her anything because she hates to take medicine and didn’t actually have the headache. Unfortunately, she just called me into her room and was crying because the headache kicked in. :( Gave her some Motrin and a cold cloth for her forehead.

@meagan She hasn’t been diagnosed with mono, and other than these headache episodes every month or two has been fine. Great appetite, very active and full of energy. Sometimes it seems like a lack of sleep combined with stress and noise trigger them, but other times they just seem random.

JLeslie's avatar

How awful. I am not a headache sufferer in general, and just cannot imagine a migraine since it sems to be such a full body experience. It is bad enough having the headache, and a severe one at that. I think it is good you will be taking her to a doctor. Your discription of her symptoms do sound extreme and I see why they are scary for you. I do think if she had something horrible like a tumor (God forbid, spit three times, etc.) that she would be in a more constant pain.

Does she drink caffeine? She is young for coffee obviously, but does she drink Soda or tea with caffeine? Or, a lot chocolate? I really think caffeine is a huge trigger for migraines and of course headaches in general. It is not the consumption of the foods in my opinion, it is the wthdrawal from them hours later, can be 24 hours. Withdrawal from caffeine would also explain feeling very lethargic and heaviness in limbs.

There does seem to be a hormonal component to migraines for some people, so maybe she is just starting or nearing puberty?

For now, most people I know say ibuprofen is the best OTC for them when it comes to migraines, and if she does drink caffeine regularly go ahead and get some into her.

syz's avatar

I had one to two debilitating migraines a week at about that age. Way back then, there were no good drugs that didn’t have some serious side effects, so I never took prescription meds. By college, I averaged one every three to four months. I haven’t had a full blown attack for a couple of years now.

wilma's avatar

I get migraines and so does my 13 year old son.
His symptoms are very much like your daughters. A long nap and pain medication usually will help him. He usually gets them near the end of the day at school. I wonder if his might be stress or perhaps something at the school like the fluorescent lighting. (fluorescent lights can give me a headache)
I believe that mine are usually hormone related. They seem to go along with my cycle and I take Relpax a prescription medication at the onset of the headache. It is possible, at her age, that your girls migraines could be hormone related as well.

Trillian's avatar

Try to keep a record of everything she ingests and her activities for a three month period and track onset and severity of her headaches along with treatments attempted and efficacy of the treatments. That will give your doc something to go on.
My brother had migraines when he was a teenager and it ended up that he had to stay away from chocolate, caffeine, and I can’t remember what else, but something in the different foods was acting like a trigger.

MissAusten's avatar

@JLeslie She only very rarely has caffeine, but hormones may play a role. She’s certainly going through some of the early changes that come with puberty.

The Motrin probably won’t help because she just threw it all up. Ugh. And here I thought she’d be able to bypass the worst of it by sleeping.

@Trillian Keeping a diary is a good idea, and probably one of the things the pediatrician will suggest. She has a yearly physical later this summer, so maybe we can keep a record until then and go over it to see if something stands out. It will be interesting to see how not being at school affects her. I’d say all but two of her headaches started at school or on the bus ride home from school.

JLeslie's avatar

Oh, I noticed you said you held off giving her anything. Almost every migraine sufferer I know talks about how imprtant it is to get in front of the pain, and that once it is full blown it is harder to knock it out. So, I would say if she starts to have warning signs maybe she should just go ahead and take some ibuprofen. Things to remember about ibuprofen, take with a full glass of water and at least a little bit of food, even if it is just a couple pretzels or crackers. Also, ibuprofen takes about 50 minutes to start working, so knowing this sometimes helps people, because they can estimate when the pain will most likely get better. For me, knowing how long I will have to endure pain helps me get through it.

Let us kow what the doctor says. Good luck.

augustlan's avatar

@wilma Relpax! That’s one of the drugs my daughter takes… the one she’s supposed to take at the onset. Thank you. That was driving me crazy.

JLeslie's avatar

MSG also. Did she have Chinese Food? A food and drink diary sounds like a good idea, I bet you can figure it out in a few weeks maybe?

MissAusten's avatar

@JLeslie Yeah, I’ve read that too about giving medicine right at the start. Next time I will make sure to do that. She’s only been eating food from home that’s mainly been cooked from scratch the past couple of days. From what I understand, food triggers can vary from person to person, so the diary will be needed to figure that out.

The only blessing so far is that from the onset of the first symptoms to the time she feels fully recovered has been, at most, a few hours. I hope I’m not jinxing her now! At least she doesn’t spend an entire day or more in misery.

JLeslie's avatar

@MissAusten Does she drink soft drinks ever? Or, Iced Tea?

meagan's avatar

@MissAusten Strawberries are supposed to trigger headaches, too. One of the crazy things I’ve found ;P

CMaz's avatar

In 9th grade I had very intense migraines. On and off for about 6 months.
Went to a neurologist. Did not find anything.
Then it eventually stopped. Never experienced anything like that since.

MissAusten's avatar

She almost never drinks any kind of soda, and only decaf tea from time to time. She hates strawberries. She does love chocolate, but doesn’t have it often or in large amounts. I’m such a mean mom, I don’t even let them eat their chocolate bunnies at Easter all at one time!

JLeslie's avatar

@MissAusten Well, I would just say that since she does not drink soda often, just watch to see if this is happening within 24 hours of drinking soda. Sounds like you are a great mom :).

ava's avatar

In kids, migraines tend to be associated/caused by particular foods. Nitrates and Nitrites in particular are common causes in children…so try avoiding foods like hotdogs and see what happens.

MissAusten's avatar

I’ll start paying more attention to things like nitrates and nitrites. I don’t think we often eat foods containing them, but I’ll be more vigilant!

She just got up after sleeping for a couple of hours and says she feels great. She scarfed down PB&J, half an apple, a banana muffin, and a glass of milk, and is back to her usual giggly, silly self. Her appointment is in about an hour, so I’m off to chug some coffee (see, the household rules about caffeine don’t apply to me! haha!) before we leave. Thanks again for all the replies!

JLeslie's avatar

One last thing if you really are strict about food, then you have to assure her that you won’t be angry or punish her for something she ate or drank recently if you are going to pursue that line of questioning, that her health is the most important thing. If she feels she has gone against you she might lie.

MissAusten's avatar

I don’t think I’m really strict, so she shouldn’t be afraid to be honest. That’s a good point though, and I’ll make sure she understands that she won’t be lectured or punished if she has soda at a friend’s house or buys an extra cookie with her school lunch.

The doctor checked her out and had her do a series of quick neurological tests, which she passed with flying colors. He said she’s been getting typical migraines, but their frequency and severity don’t call for extra tests or medication at this point. He suggested we keep a sleep/diet record and go over it again at her next checkup.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

I’ve been getting full-blown migraines since I was five-years-old. Sensitivity to light, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, inability to form sentences (or I sometimes misuse words), fever, flashes of light, sensitivity to noise, etc. I get all of the symptoms. I’m 25 now, so I know I’m stuck with them for the rest of my life, unfortunately.

It’s important that your daughter eats well-balanced meals and that she never skips out on eating if she’s busy – if I go too long without eating, it will eventually trigger a migraine. Also – she needs to be aware of what she eats, as certain foods and drinks trigger migraines. (For me, it’s hot dogs and grape juice – it can be different for everyone.) Also, because she seems prone to get them, unfortunately if it’s close to her time of month (if that’s happened yet) she’ll be more vulnerable than usual.

Doing strenuous activity for a long period of time also causes me to get a migraine. So if your daughter plans on exercising, going on a bike ride, etc. she should probably carry medicine with her.

Now, some small things that helped me when I was younger especially: A hot washcloth for the neck, and a cool washcloth for the forehead. I don’t know why, but when I was a kid, the combination really helped. It doesn’t work for adults the same way it does for kids, for some reason. Stores also sell excellent cooling pads that you can stick to your forehead, which also helped me a lot when I was younger. Using them in combination with medicine and a warm washcloth on the neck should help a lot.

Obviously, she needs to be in a quiet, dark room until she feels better, as any kind of stimulation is much more pronounced that usual. If she feels sick to her stomach, tell her to try and take a bath with the light off and some candles lit – with a cooling patch on her forehead. I found that the weightlessness of the water helped to significantly cut back on my nausea, and would sometimes (not always, unfortunately) prevent me from vomiting.

Now – because these symptoms are new, there’s a chance that it could be something more serious, so a doctor’s visit is a great move. It needs to be done so certain scary things can be ruled out. I’m very glad that you’re taking this seriously, because not many people realize how horrifying migraines can be.

Lastly (and I’m sorry this is so long, but I’m trying to genuinely help since I know what it’s like): Have your daughter keep a migraine journal. Have her write down the date, time, and anything else she thinks might pinpoint some of her triggers. Once she’s had the journal for a while, a pattern will develop. Recognizing the pattern won’t enable her to prevent all of her headaches, but it will prepare her, or at least she’ll come to understand the kind of things she should try to avoid.

Also: Make sure she doesn’t need glasses. When I finally got some, it cut back the amount of migraines I got. And I typically get migraines a lot. Sometimes more than 10 times a month. Good luck – I hope all works out well for your daughter.

Fly's avatar

I’ve had a very similar problem since about your daughter’s age. While I never experienced vomiting along with a migraine, her other symptoms are about the same as my own.

(I apologize for the length ahead of time, but it was a lengthy process.)
When we first went to the doctor about it, he wasn’t too concerned and just assumed it came along with puberty. Admittedly, they seemed to be relatively typical at the time. He didn’t want to put me on a prescription medication, so he suggested that I take one Aleve each morning to prevent a migraine from occurring. The Aleve worked for a while but I started getting the migraines again relatively quickly. We went back to the doctor who told me to keep going with the Aleve regimen and prescribed Relpax to help get rid of the migraines when they came. The Relpax helped once I got a migraine, but the Aleve wasn’t working and soon I started getting regular, almost constant dull, achy headaches. Then one Aleve turned to two, but the headaches stayed.

This went on for about another four years. I sort of adjusted to the constant headache and never bothered to do anything about it…it seemed to minuscule to go to the doctor for or have treated. Then one day late fall of last year, I started getting dizzy spells, and shortly after fell into a constant dizziness and lack of balance and ability to focus visually. I went to the doctor, who first said it was most likely just vertigo or an inner ear infection and that it should go away within the next few days, but it didn’t. I was absent from school and I fell behind on work, and I eventually had to drop my AP calculus class because I couldn’t keep up with it. I had to have teachers enlarge worksheets for me just so I could read it, because it was as if I was dyslexic when I tried to read. I couldn’t write for long periods of time because I had to keep my head up. I went to the doctor again and they still couldn’t figure out what was wrong, so they referred me to a neurologist.

After getting an MRI and discussing my past problems with migraines and the constant headache, the neurologist finally diagnosed me with a migraine disorder that caused it all. He said that if we treated even the small symptom of that everyday headache, the dizziness should go away. He prescribed me with Nadolol to treat the headaches, which I take daily. After figuring out the right dosage, I have been mostly headache-free. I do still get the occasional headache or migraine, but in a normal way and I just take Relpax as needed.

My advice? Even if something as small as a tiny, persistent headache shows up, don’t just brush it off and let it pass. If something doesn’t feel right neurologically, get it checked out ASAP. Don’t dismiss even the tiniest symptom. Medication is often the best option, so if you or your daughter think it will be worth it, definitely ask your doctor about it. Furthermore, don’t be so quick to accept puberty or “it’s normal” and to just get rest as the answer. While this is true in many cases, it turned out not to be in mine. Although my case is pretty unlikely, you can’t be too sure. If they keep happening or get worse despite the doctor’s suggestions, you may want to get a second opinion. Don’t wait too long to go to the doctor if anything seems off. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.

MissAusten's avatar

@DrasticDreamer and @Fly : Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. I will certainly stay on the doctors if the migraines become more frequent or start to interfere with her day-to-day life. Over this past school year, she had to leave school early three times which isn’t very excessive. She’s had eye exams as part of her regular check-ups and so far doesn’t seem to have any problems. I think they also do them at school. I don’t know how her eyes are still good because my husband and I are both nearsighted and were wearing glasses by the time we were her age. At her next physical, I will ask the doctor about a more thorough eye exam with an optometrist to see if she thinks it’s necessary. Thanks for suggesting that, because I wouldn’t have thought of it.

We will try the combination of warm/cold compresses and a bath. She loves to take a bath when she’s sick with a virus or some other fever, so I’m sure she’ll like to try it for a migraine. We’ve started with a food/sleep diary today. It is very reassuring to read that other people have experienced many of the same symptoms with migraines and didn’t end up dying of brain tumors. I have to get over this habit of always imagining the worst. I can see that it is difficult to go through and am hoping like crazy it doesn’t get worse for her.

Cruiser's avatar

Just another thought…have you had her vision tested?

courtney1946's avatar

I had migraines (hereditary) from age 10 to 55. I feel sad for your daughter having to deal with this. I would suggest you check the library for books about migraines. Some are very helpful. They usually have lists of foods and such that may act as triggers to migraines, and those triggers may vary from person to person. For instance, aged cheese was always a bad trigger for me, but not chocolate. It seems pollen is a trigger for me, but many people don’t find that to be true for them. It is not unusual to feel wiped out as much as a day after a migraine, and this can be a problem for keeping up with school or a job. My best advice is to educate yourself as much as possible, and you may find some very helpful information. Best wishes to your daughter and you.

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