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Migraines in kids: Focus on prevention, doctors say

May 8, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
We often think of migraines as something that only affects adults, but doctors say they often go misdiagnosed in children.

Jacob Holladay, 12, was on the fifth day of a severe migraine. The episode was so bad that he got admitted to Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

"It generates from my right and left temple but mostly my left one," said Holladay.

His mom says he's been out of school for a week, and he missed two weeks in January.

The duration of Jacob's migraines makes him unusual, but pediatric neurologists say child migraines are quite common. Studies show migraines occur in 5 percent of children under 10 and in 10 percent of teens and preteens.

"I'm talking about recurrent headaches, where they're well in between them, but they're bad enough that they are either vomiting or they consistently have to go to sleep, turn off the lights," said Dr. Wendy Mitchell at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

While the Food and Drug Administration has approved many drugs for adults with migraines, there isn't a single one for children, so experts say the focus has to be on prevention.

"They know that if they stay up late, and then they're late in the morning, they skip breakfast, they don't like whatever the school's serving for lunch, so they haven't eaten and then they get home at 4 o'clock and then they have a terrible headache," said Mitchell.

If the episodes happen occasionally, Mitchell recommends giving your child a caffeinated beverage accompanied by acetominophen or Tylenol. If it happens much more often, parents should keep a headache diary to track the triggers and talk to their doctor about a pediatric pain management program.

"That includes things like acupuncture, biofeedback, massage, medications, psychotherapy -- individual, family or even group psychotherapy," said Jeffrey Gold with CHLA's Pediatric Pain Management Clinic.

Kids with migraines often grow up to become adults with migraines. That's why experts say learning to prevent them and find ways to manage them early will help keep them under control.


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