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Migraines are sometimes thought of a disorder that affects adults but they also affect up to 10 percent of school-aged children, with the average age of onset being only six years old. Migraines also occur in children in preschool, though they are rare.
Migraines can be caused by a number of different things including:
• Stress – problems at school or home life.
• Sleep deprivation – if the child goes to bed too late, gets up at night or wakes up too early.
• If your child is fussy with his food, the lack of food can lower his blood sugar and trigger a migraine.
• Weather changes – some people get migraines when there is cold weather or storms.
• Diet – children tend to like junk foods, which are typically full of additives or monosodium glutamate (MSG). These additives can cause migraine in some children.
• Medications – certain medications may cause migraines. ADHD drugs are a known trigger of childhood migraines. Many medicines aimed at children also contain aspartame, such as children’s Tylenol and Panadol. Though aspartame is another trigger of migraines, it is put into children’s medicines because it is a sweetener and enhances the taste of the medicine.
• Menstruation – girls can develop migraines at the onset of their menstrual periods, as some migraines are triggered by hormones. At puberty, migraines become three times more common in girls.
• Family history – if a child has relatives with a history of migraines, he is more likely to suffer from them.
How You can Tell if Your Toddler has a Migraine
Preschool children may not tell you they have headaches but they may look sick, cry, become irritable, have abdominal pain, vomit and a sensitivity to bright lights. If your child exhibits any of these symptoms, please seek medical attention as the symptoms may mean another, more serious illness and you need to rule this out.
Avoiding all the triggers is the best way to prevent a migraine. Making sure your child goes to bed early and establishing a sleep routine, as well as encouraging regular, nutritious meals could help.
Fresh food is best.