Types Of Headaches Migraine Headaches Children Teenagers

Ten percent of children and teenagers under fifteen years of age suffer from severe headaches. Researchers suspect that the number may actually be higher as headaches in children are difficult to diagnose and are often dismissed as fatigue or just “crankiness.” Young children may have difficulty explaining their symptoms to parents or doctors, making an accurate diagnosis even more difficult. Any family history of migraines should be reported to your health professional.

Until puberty, headaches affect boys and girls at an equal rate. During adolescence, however, headaches in teenage girls become much more common than in teenage boys. Childhood migraines often go away with age, but may come back later in life.

Symptoms of Migraine Headaches in Children

Migraine symptoms in children and teenagers differ in some ways from those of adults. With a few exceptions, migraine headaches in children and teenagers are fortunately shorter in duration than those of adults. While young children usually experience pain on both sides of the head, teenagers, like adults, tend to experience the pain on only one side of the head.

Common symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive urination
  • Headache
  • Sweatiness
  • Swelling
  • Teary eyes
  • Thirst
  • Vertigo
  • Vomiting.

Headache-Free Migraines in Children

In some cases, children do not experience headaches with their migraines.

Abdominal Migraine: An abdominal migraine is characterized by recurrent vomiting, severe abdominal pain and stomach upset. Episodes may last for an hour or more, interspersed with periods of normal health.

Also called cyclic vomiting, abdominal migraine episodes peak in frequency between five and nine years. A diagnosis is made, in part, by ruling out other possible stomach ailments.

Basilar Migraine: Common in children, a basilar migraine occurs when the basilar artery spasms. The artery is located in the brainstem. Visual aura often occurs with a basilar migraine. The visual disturbances start in one eye, and then gradually spread to cover the entire field of vision. Nausea, vomiting, vertigo, visual difficulties and muscle weakness are all symptoms.

Motion Sickness and Sleepwalking

Statistically, children who suffer from migraines are more likely to suffer from motion sickness and sleepwalking: 45 percent suffer from motion sickness and 28 percent exhibit somnambulism (sleepwalking) symptoms.

Childhood Obesity and Migraine Headaches

Past research has indicated a link between obesity and migraines in adults, but until recently this link has not been demonstrated in children. According to researchers at the Headache Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, children who suffer from migraines are 36 percent more likely to also be overweight or obese. People who are obese suffer from a chronic, low-level, systemic inflammation. These inflammatory agents contribute to the inflammation of blood vessels in the brain that occurs during a migraine headache. Therefore existing systemic inflammation may predispose overweight or obese children to migraine headaches; and the more overweight they are the more intense their migraine symptoms.


American Medical Association. (nd). Children and migraines. Medem Medical Library.

Migraine Association of Canada. (nd). Migraine in children.

Neurology Channel. (nd). Migraine.