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Recognize and treat migraines and headaches in your child

June is National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month

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Mild to moderate headache pain is one of the top three most commonly treated recurrent symptoms by pediatricians.

Some headaches can be a sign of a serious condition, or a side effect of a secondary illness, such as the flu. Your doctor will complete a thorough physical examination and medical history, and may even order diagnostic imaging should it be deemed necessary.

Middletown Medical recognizes the burden head pain in children can be on families, and understands the importance of identifying symptoms, causes, and preventative action.

Headaches in children
Headache symptoms in children typically progress over the duration of a single-day period, and encompass pain that radiates anywhere in the region of the head or neck. While the brain itself lacks pain receptors, there are several pain sensitive structures in the surrounding area that contribute to headaches. These include the skin, bone and structures in the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and large blood vessels. Head pain occurs because of activation or irritation of these pain-sensing structures.

Your child may experience a constant, dull aching on either sides of the forehead, or a sensation of tightness within the head. Some children may also complain of a radiating pain that extends from the head down through the neck.

At times, headaches can be a side effect of a primary illness, such as a virus, strep throat, sinus infection, or the flu. However, there are also a number of preventable outside factors that contribute to headaches. Common causes include hunger or thirst, fatigue, food additives, caffeine, eye strain, emotional stress, strong aromas, physical exertion, head injury, and more.

Migraines in children
It is reported by the American Academy of Pediatrics that migraines are witnessed in up to 10 percent of the adolescent population. With exposure to electronic screens at an all-time high, many parents are reporting a higher rate of headaches and migraines in children and teenagers. Migraines are typically recurring and more severe than a regular headache, with a child experiencing a throbbing or stabbing pain that may affect one or both sides of the head.

Migraine symptoms can be associated as with-aura or without-aura. An aura is a visual disturbance that may alter your child’s sense of vision. Symptoms of an aura may include blind spots, temporary vision loss, seeing zig zag patterns, or seeing flashing lights.

It is also possible for a child to suffer from a migraine with the absence of aura symptoms. General migraine symptoms may include drowsiness, head throbbing, mental dullness, moodiness, fatigue, sensitivity to light, nausea or vomiting, and drowsiness.

While headaches are typically caused by tension and muscle contractions, migraines are caused by chemicals produced in the brain that alter blood vessels, resulting in the severe symptoms.

READ MORE: What to do if your child suffers from migraines

How to help
There are steps that parents can take to help children avoid headaches.

1. Ensure your child is getting the recommended amount of sleep each night.

2. Ensure your child eats regular meals. If this isn’t possible due to scheduling, pediatricians recommend frequent snacks to avoid hunger.

3. Physical activity and exercise help to decrease headache frequency.

4. Track any patterns you note that are related to your child’s headaches to help identify and avoid possible triggers.

Is your child suffering from headaches or migraines? Middletown Medical has Pediatric Services in Middletown, Monticello, and Wurtsboro. Visit Middletown Medical for more information, or to make an appointment.

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