Babies and children * Young people

Back to school can trigger migraines

Zone default image Tips to manage migraines in children

For some children, going back to school can literally be a headache, with a change in routine or starting at a new school triggering a migraine attack.

In fact, each year an estimated 2.75 million school days are lost due to migraines in schoolchildren.

To mark Migraine Awareness Week (6-12 September), national charity Migraine Action has launched a range of resources for families with children with migraine and also to give practical advice to families, friends, teachers and school nurses.

Migraine symptoms in children

These can be very different to those in adults and include:

  • abdominal pain
  • nausea and / or vomiting
  • sensitivity to light, sound or smell
  • confusion, and a lack of attention are all common

Children may not experience a headache, or this may only be mild. Because of this the condition can go unrecognised or even be thought of as bad behaviour.

Lee Tomkins, Director of Migraine Action, says: "We have created these new resources in response to feedback from parents, children, teachers and healthcare professionals. Children can miss a lot of school because of migraine, but often this doesn't need to be the case. By helping people to understand the condition, its causes, and by making them aware of some simple ways they may be able to help reduce a child's chances of an attack, we hope to lessen the impact that migraine has on the lives millions of children."

Top tips for managing migraines in children

  • Children should drink 1 - 2 litres of water each day to prevent dehydration, which is one of the triggers for migraine attacks
  • Eat regularly to keep blood sugar levels stable. Children should not go longer than 3 - 4 hours without food during the day, or 13 hours overnight
  • Avoid foods which have lots of additives and limit caffeine intake (such as those in Colas)
  • Keep a migraine diary to help recognise any patterns or triggers, such as particular foods, stress or bright sunlight
  • Keep regular sleep patterns; the aim should be 8 - 10 hours each night
  • Balance exercise with enough 'fuel' (a starchy snack, such as a sandwich, before exercise can help prevent attacks. Ensure there is plenty of time for rest and relaxation
  • Children should spend no more than 3 hours a day on the computer, watching TV or playing video games (and no more than 45 minutes in one session) and should stop at least one hour before they go to bed
  • Don't suffer in silence - your GP can help or contact Migraine Action for advice.

Further information

Free information packs for families and teachers can be obtained by contacting Migraine Action

This article was published on Mon 14 September 2009

Image © Mikael Damkier -

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