Video Q & A:

Kids & Teens


What causes migraines in children?

Expert:   Lawrence C. Newman, MD, Director, The Headache Institute, Roosevelt Hospital Center »

If we knew what caused migraines, we'd have a better chance of curing them. Unfortunately, doctors haven't been able to pinpoint a reason why so many children develop the condition. Find out what they know so far!

Transcript: It’s hard to say EXACTLY what causes migraines in children. There are many factors, but researchers are confident that genetics play a role, as does the fact that ALL migraine sufferers have what we call an overly-sensitive brain. Children –and adults-- who get migraine don’t adapt well to change—changes in the amount of sleep they get, in the weather, in hormone levels. ANY alteration in the environment or personal habits can cause a cascade of physiological events to occur that may lead to your child’s migraine attack. So what can you do to protect your child from migraine triggers?Try to establish a consistent sleep routine. Missouri State University researchers found that a lack of sleep can throw off key proteins in the brain that suppress and trigger chronic pain, resulting in an attack. Keeping a regular meal schedule is also a good idea. And try to determine if any types of foods or food additives seem to cause an attack. Common food triggers include:foods packed with tyramine, such as aged cheese or soy sauce, sodium nitrate, found in hot dogs and bacon, or phenylalanine, found in the sugar substitute aspartame and other foods. Read food labels, and watch your child’s diet, if you see a pattern you may want to remove these foods from your menu.INTENSE physical activity can also set off a migraine, but we don’t know exactly why this happens OR why it may only happen SOME of the time. All you can do is keep a watchful eye on your child and at the first sign of a migraine call for a rest period and perhaps offer an over-the-counter pain reliever to short circuit the attack. The good strategy in general is for parents to pay attention to what brings on this terrible pain, and help their child discover strategies for avoiding migraines.To learn more about childhood migraine, check out other videos in this series. More »

Can't Find an Answer? Send us your question »