If you were to ask a lot of people what a migraine is, odds are that most people would say it’s a kind of headache. If you’re lucky, they might say that it’s a really bad headache. What they probably wouldn’t say is that it’s an attack of nausea, but for some who experience migraines, and especially for children, that is exactly what the main symptom of their migraines is – their attack might even be completely without head pain.
Studies suggest that approximately 60% of children between the ages of 7 and 15 experience migraine but, as the symptom of head pain which is experienced in most adult attacks is not always involved and the symptom of nausea is more common, diagnosis can be delayed and nearly half of children with migraine never receive a diagnosis.
For children, migraine attacks often manifest themselves as abdominal pain and/or vomiting. Recurring bouts of headache or abdominal pain accompanied with nausea and/or vomiting (while between bouts there are no symptoms and the child is perfectly healthy) are probably migraines.
Other symptom variations which make migraine attacks in children different from those in adults are that the head pain usually affects the forehead and temples rather than being felt in one side of the head; that the head pain may be a minor symptom of the attack or absent entirely; and that attacks in children are usually shorter in length – sometimes lasting less than an hour.
Diagnosing migraine early on is important as otherwise inappropriate medications may be used to manage symptoms, anxiety around the attacks may occur, and there could be a resulting negative impact on home life, school life and social life. With this in mind, if a child is often feeling nauseous for no obvious reason, consulting a doctor on the possibility that it may be migraines is a key thing to do.