Migraine In Teenagers - Everything You Need To Know

Migraine In Teenagers

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Although migraine is ‘the 3rd most prevalent and 7th leading cause of disability worldwide’ (1), not much was known about the problem in India. For years, migraine sufferers have had to endure taunts for hyping up what others see as ‘just another headache’. Such misconceptions are common among parents of teenagers who’re likely to misunderstand their child’s problem as an excuse to skip a day off from school/college. But the truth is that migraines are completely different from a headache – right from causes and symptoms to treatment, there’s nothing in common.

What Is Migraine?

The Mayo Clinic website describes migraine to be an ‘intense throbbing or a pulsing sensation in one area of the head and accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and an extreme sensitivity to light’. (2) Sometimes, a migraine is accompanied by an aura and sometimes without an aura. And sometimes, patients experience only an aura without the accompanying headache. To the uninitiated, an aura can be descri

bed as patterns of lights that flash through before the headache begins.

Among children and adolescents, migraine may slightly differ…

Children often experience pain on one side of the head rather than the whole head. Also, the pain usually lasts for an hour, but sometimes it may last up to 2-4 hours. They are more likely to feel sick when the pain begins to subside. Such sickness may indicate the end of an attack. Children who experience car sickness are likely candidates for migraines when they grow up. A PubMed Health article published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), claims that some children can be completely cured of migraine as they get older. (3)

Symptoms Of Migraine In Teenagers:

Migraine symptoms in teens often range from nausea and light flashes to depression and irritability. A typical migraine usually progresses through four stages; viz. prodrome, aura, headache, and postdrome. Since every case is different, patients may or may not experience all the stages.

1. Prodrome:

This occurs one or two days before a headache. Symptoms include constipation, depression, hyperactivity, irritability, and uncontrollable yawning are common.

[ Read: Symptoms Of Constipation In Teens ]

2. Aura:

Patients often see flashes of light before or during a headache. Sometimes, patients are unable to speak or hear clearly and sometimes they experience weakness in the limbs.

3. Headache:

A migraine headache can last up to an hour or sometimes up to 72 hours. Patients experiencing a headache are extremely sensitive to light, sound, and/or smell.

4. Postdrome:

Children during the postdrome phase feel sick and extremely drained out.

Causes Of Migraine In Teenagers:

There’s not much clarity on the exact causes that trigger an attack. It is true that genetics plays an important part in causing migraines in teenagers. Children of parents who suffer from migraines are more likely to experience an attack- 40% if one parent suffers from migraine and 90% if both parents suffer from migraine. (4) But it is also true that triggers of migraine are different in an Indian setting when compared to the West. (5) Common triggers affecting the Indian scenario include (6):

  1. Henna application
  2. Smell from burning of mosquito coils, incense sticks, attar, etc.
  3. Eating too much of spicy and oily food
  4. Humidity
  5. Fasting
  6. Noise pollution caused by vehicles and/or festivals.

Besides the above-mentioned triggers, other common causes include:

  • Hormonal Changes: Hormonal changes experienced during a menstrual cycle are a common cause of migraines. This is why more girls experience an attack during their teen. (7)
  • Food Triggers: Children often pay less attention to their diet in their teens. Lack of a balanced diet can cause migraines in teens. Make sure that your child does not skip meals. Sometimes, eating certain types of food may trigger an attack- cheese, milk, chocolate, eggs, and foods that contain additives like aspartame and glutamate are common culprits.

[ Read: Balanced Diet For Teenagers ]

  • Dehydration: Not drinking enough water can trigger a migraine attack.
  • Exam Related Stress: Exams can cause children to become restless. Make sure that your child has enough time to take rest while studying. Ask him/her to go out and get some fresh air or listen to some soothing music.
  • Stress: Peer pressure can be tremendous among teenage children. Having to cope with friends, college, etc. can cause them to bottle up their emotions, thereby leading to stress related migraines.
  • Exercise: Though not common, but some people experience a migraine attack after exercising. If this is the case, regular exercising can help to alleviate the problem.
  • Too Much Partying: Alcohol, cigarettes, and illegal drugs can trigger migraine attacks. This is especially true for children dehydrated after a session of drinking and cigarette smoking.

[ Read: Signs Of Dehydration In Teens ]

What To Do During A Migraine Attack?

Medications prescribed to adults aren’t often prescribed for teenagers. This is because their bodies are still growing and may react differently. When your child experiences an attack, ask him to:

  • Lie down in a quiet place until he or she gets sleep or until the migraine goes away.
  • Apply a cold pack to relieve throbbing.
  • Take painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol. But these should be taken in moderation as they cause stomach problems among children.
  • If the pain persists, you may need to visit a doctor who would prescribe medicines to treat a migraine. This is called acute treatment and is advised by the doctor only when patients experience extreme discomfort.
  • Medication is also prescribed to treat nausea and other associated symptoms.

Preventing A Migraine Attack:

Preventing migraines is easier than you think. All you need to do is to maintain a healthy lifestyle and try avoiding possible triggers.

1. Maintaining A Healthy Lifestyle:

Regular exercises, proper sleep and a balanced diet can help to keep teenage migraine at bay. Make sure that your kid drinks plenty of water and stays protected from the harsh sunlight.

[ Read: Benefits Of Regular Exercises For Teens ]

2. Staying Relaxed:

Yoga helps to relax the mind and body. It also helps to avoid a migraine attack.

3. Following Medications:

Make sure that your child takes his or her medications religiously.

You can also join a migraine sufferers’ forum to discuss your problems and seek solutions. Do you have someone in your family who suffers from migraines? If so, how do you help them cope? Share your experiences and stories with us.

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