HEADACHES in children are more common than many of us realise. And while they may experience various types such as tension or stress-related and cluster headaches, the most common acute and recurrent headache pattern experienced by children are migraines, a condition which paediatrician Dr Anona Griffith said often follows children into adulthood.
“Migraines are headaches that are severe and recurrent and usually start in childhood. Whenever children present with symptoms of a migraine, tests are usually done to eliminate other serious conditions. However, once the diagnosis has been made, then treatment is done to prevent its occurrence as well as to avoid the debilitating effects of a headache,” Dr Griffith explained.
Migraines, according to Dr Griffith, are unique to individuals in the way that they manifest. The signature symptom experienced during an episode is the sudden onset of a severe headache located around the eyes, in the forehead region, or in the temples. However, there are a variety of other symptoms migraineurs (people who suffer from migraines) are likely to experience including:
•Pulsating, throbbing or pounding head pain
•Pain that worsens with exertion
•Extreme sensitivity to light and sound.
Dr Griffith said that the condition, which can be quite debilitating, can be improved and prevented by taking notes of triggers and avoiding them, in addition to the use of medication which will either aid in the prevention or reduce and help with resolving symptoms.
Below she shares some of the most common known triggers:
Noise and light
A migraine, according to Dr Griffith, is generally triggered or offset by overactive nerves in the brain. These nerves then send messages that not only widen some blood vessels, but release chemicals as well which are responsible for the inflammation of the veins, which results in the pain felt during a migraine headache. This can be further exacerbated by bright light such as that from various screens (television, tablets and other gadgets) and noises.
Hunger results in migraines for obvious reasons. While the link between headaches and hunger are quite clear, most experts theorise that this is likely linked to an inadequate amount of sugar in the blood. For this reason, migraineurs are cautioned against skipping meals.
While there is not adequate scientific data, surveys conducted among migraineurs have shown that a very high percentage of people admit their migraines are often triggered when they have had insufficient intake of water.
Some foods such as citrus and chocolate
While skipping meals is not recommended, Dr Griffith said that it is equally important to pay attention to the types of foods that you feed your child. Some foods such as citrus, including juices produced from them, food additives, caffeine, cheese, shellfish, sugars, nuts and chocolate can trigger headaches.
To combat these triggers Dr Griffith recommends establishing a regular sleep pattern, starting an exercise routine for your child (sports, for example), eating at regular intervals, and avoiding bright lights and noises.