Published on 06th November 2017

Edited on 06th November 2017

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NC5_Teenage Headaches -min

As with adults, migraines are a common problem amo­ngst teenagers and young people. If your teenager does suffer from regular migraines or headaches it’s important to remember that they are not alone. There are a number of things you can do to help your teen manage their migraines.

Read on to learn more about migraine pain in teenagers.

A headache vs. a migraine

A migraine is more than just a headache and can sneak up on sufferers really quickly. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if what your teenager is experiencing is a migraine or a bad headache. However if they are suffering with a migraine, in addition to a throbbing headache, they may experience the following associated symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Increased sensitivity to light and sound
  • Blurred vision
  • Stiffness of the neck or shoulders

Types of migraine

There are several different types of migraine which generally fall into the following categories:

  • Migraine with aura: Sufferers may experience warning signs such as seeing flashing lights just before a migraine attack. Aura symptoms can last up to an hour and may be frightening the first time you experience them. Rest assured, this will usually pass once the attack subsides.
  • Migraine without aura: often the most common type of migraine, where a migraine strikes without warning aura signals.
  • Migraine aura without headache: sometimes known as a silent migraine where an aura or other related migraine symptoms, develop without a headache.

What triggers a migraine in teenagers?

Researchers are not certain about the exact causes of migraines. From lifestyle choices to diet and environmental triggers, many factors could lead to a migraine.

Here are a few common teenage migraine triggers to look out for:

Lifestyle

Some people find that a missed meal or irregular sleeping patterns can set off a migraine. If your teenager is suffering with migraines, it’s thought that sticking to a regular routine can help manage migraine attacks. (However as a teenager with sports to do, friends to see, exams to prepare for and parties to attend, sticking to a routine is often easier said than done!)

Stress

With exams, homework and other teenage pressures, it is no surprise that stress is a common migraine trigger.7If you are worried your teen is stressed out or depressed, remind them not to deal with it alone. Encourage them to speak to you, or someone they trust, and to get organised making sure they factor in time to relax between studying.

Hormonal changes

Puberty can be a difficult time for teenagers; as their body changes, hormones can be all over the place which can affect migraines. Girls who suffer from migraines find that their period is a potential trigger.

Diet

If your teen suffers from migraines, what they eat and when they eat could have an effect on their headaches. Skipping meals and not drinking enough throughout the day could trigger a migraine - especially if your teenager plays sports. Try gently reminding your teen to eat regularly throughout the day and to stay hydrated.

Certain foods are also thought to trigger migraine attacks. Common dietary triggers can include:7

  • Too much caffeine products such as tea and coffee
  • Specific foods such as chocolate, citrus fruits or cheese
  • Alcohol – this could be a trigger for older teens once they are old enough to drink

Managing teenage migraines

As the saying goes, prevention is often better than the cure. If your teenager is experiencing migraines it’s a good idea for them to keep a migraine diary tracking the frequency and severity of their migraines. Noting down as many details as possible will help identify personal migraine triggers, which can then be avoided in future. A few points to consider writing down include:

  • What you ate that day and at what time
  • What you were doing just before your migraine began
  • What time you woke up
  • How you feel
  • For girls, the date of your period

If your teen feels a migraine coming on, the most important thing to do is tell someone about it, this could be a parent, carer or teacher. Some people find that the following can help to deal with oncoming migraine symptoms:

  • Have a drink or something to eat
  • Sit or lie down in a dark and quiet room
  • Take a rest or have a sleep

Painkillers

If your teen is suffering from migraines over-the-counter painkillers which contain ibuprofen, such as Nurofen 200mg Liquid Capsules, can help provide relief from headaches and migraines.

*Adults and children from 12 years. Nurofen 200mg Liquid Capsules contain Ibuprofen. For pain relief. Always read the label.

Advice for Parents and Carers

It can be difficult watching your teenager suffer with migraines but there are ways you can help them to cope with their migraine attacks.

  • Diagnosis: If you suspect your teenager is suffering from migraines book an appointment with your GP. The sooner the problem is diagnosed the sooner they can start managing their migraines accordingly.
  • Record: Encourage your teenager to keep a migraine diary to help track their triggers.
  • Support: Make sure your teenager’s school or college is aware of the problem as they may need extra time and support to catch up on missed work.
  • Reassure: Migraines can be frightening, especially when you experience one for the first time, so being their to help your teenager through an attack can make a big difference.

When to see a doctor

If your teen is suffering from frequent or severe migraines, it’s a good idea to book an appointment with your local GP. The more information your teen can provide about their migraines, the easier it will be for your doctor to help.

If your teen’s migraine is associated with any of the following symptoms you should seek medical help:

  • A head pain unlike anything you have experienced before
  • Fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rash
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