Learn the important actions you can take to be an advocate for your child with migraine
Does your child complain about head pain? It’s important to take their complaints seriously since children have headaches for many different reasons. Kids with frequent or severe headaches should be evaluated by their doctor to determine what type of headache syndrome is causing the child’s discomfort. We connected with Dr. Marielle Kabbouche Samaha, a child neurologist at the Headache Center at Cincinnati Children’s, and Dr. Jessica Gautreaux, a New Orleans-based child neurologist who specializes in headache medicine, to learn about the key actions parents can take to become their child’s advocate and help them get relief from migraine.
Believe your child
When a young child says they have a headache, parents may discount or downplay the complaint. Often parents think a headache is just a minor discomfort. They might also believe the child is using this to avoid doing something they don’t want to do. If the parent has frequent migraine, the child may be suspected of imitating that parent. If your child speaks up about head pain, listen and ask questions. Believe what they are telling you. After all, your child depends on you, and their health and wellbeing should be your primary concern. Your child needs to trust you, and you need to believe them to act as their advocate.
“The most important thing about being a good advocate is to know your facts,” says Dr. Gautreaux. “You have to be educated about what you’re going to talk about and know a lot about what you’re going to be fighting for to really be able to produce change.” If you’re reading this, you’re likely already taking this action step and learning more about migraine. Arming yourself with information will help you support your child and be an even better advocate. Visit our listen and ask questions for more information about pediatric migraine, such as sleep tips, advice on developing a Pediatric Migraine Action Plan and patient stories from children living with migraine.
Establish healthy habits
Help your child practice healthy habits. Encourage adequate hydration, regular exercise, restful sleep and healthy eating. These habits can take care of some of the common headache triggers, including dehydration, lack of sleep and certain foods that a doctor may suggest addressing as an initial step. It can be hard to maintain healthy habits in unfamiliar environments such as school or a friend’s house. So be sure to educate other adults so they can look out for your child and keep them on track.
Talk to your child’s primary care physician
Your child’s pediatrician is a good starting point, as they know your child and their medical history. “Primary care physicians can have a big impact on pediatric headache patients,” says Dr. Kabbouche Samaha. “They are the first one to see the patients when their headaches are not that bad or severe. And treating it early can help avoid more severe headaches and more chronic headaches.” By keeping a headache diary or headache calendar for your child, you ensure that you are prepared for your visit.
If your child has been diagnosed with migraine and is not responding well to treatments or if attacks become more frequent over time, ask for a referral to a pediatric neurologist or headache specialist. A specialist can help arrive at a diagnosis and create an individualized treatment plan.
Keep detailed records
Whether you’re speaking with your pediatrician, a specialist or even an insurance company in order to ensure coverage for a specific medication, it’s helpful to keep a written record of the details surrounding your child’s migraine. “Keeping that handy and knowing that well will really be useful to you, because you’ll be able to state your case and really tell them about your child’s migraine,” says Dr. Gautreaux. Include all symptoms, triggers, doctor appointments, medications your child has tried, treatments that have been effective or ineffective and any therapies or procedures.
When you advocate for your child, you can help them get the treatment they need to find relief and prevent more severe or chronic headache. Your support and advocacy is invaluable in addressing your child’s pediatric migraine, and in establishing a lifetime of trust.
The American Migraine Foundation is committed to improving the lives of those living with this debilitating disease. For more of the latest news and information on migraine, visit the AMF Resource Library or Pediatric Migraine Content Hub. For help finding a healthcare provider, check out our Find a Doctor tool. Together, we are as relentless as migraine.
Reviewed for accuracy by the American Migraine Foundation’s subject matter experts, headache specialists and medical advisers with deep knowledge and training in headache medicine. Click here to read about our editorial board members.