Last edited 10/2022
Migraine is a diagnosis of exclusion in children, characterised by recurrent, paroxysmal, symptom-free intervals, with no organic or psychogenic features. Before a firm diagnosis is made, the patient should be watched for long enough to ensure that growth is normal. Proper recognition would lead to diagnosis within four months in 96% of cases.
Features of migraine in children:
- occurs in all age groups, even younger than 5 years (1)
- migraine has a 1-year prevalence of about 7% among school-age children (2)
- migraine occurs in 3% to 10% of children and increases with age up to puberty (3)
- migraine affects boys and girls similarly before puberty, but girls are more likely to suffer from migraine afterwards (3)
- migraine spontaneously remits after puberty in half of children, but if it begins during adolescence, it may be more likely to persist throughout adulthood (3)
- variable frequency of attacks, 20% have 2 to 3 attacks per week (1)
- variable duration however the majority are less than 5 hours(1)
- children experience all the different types of migraine:
- hemianopic aura are rarer
- vertebrobasilar syndromes more common
- first degree relatives of subjects with migraine have a 1.9 times higher risk of developing migraine compared to the general population and the concordance rate for migraine with aura in monozygotic twins is 34% compared to 12% in dizygotic twins (4)
- suffer from all the different types of migraine
The underlying cause of migraine is unknown (1). However in some children the condition has been associated with various factors (1):
- insufficent food
- specific foods e.g. cheese, chocolate, citrus fruits
- overuse of analgesia
- lack of sleep or excess sleep
- flickering or bright lights e.g. television, computer screen
- minor head trauma
- in girls after the menarche - menses or taking the oral contraceptive pill
With respect to migraine prophylaxis in children a review states (5):
- propranolol was found to be possibly effective in reducing migraine frequency by 50% compared with placebo
- topiramate and cinnarizine (not available in the US or Canada) were possibly associated with reduced frequency of headache compared with placebo
Note that migraine is approximately 50% more likely in relatives of people with the condition than in those whose relatives do not have migraine.
- Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin 2004; 42 (4): 25-8.
- Ashina M. Migraine. N Engl J Med 2020;383:1866-76. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMra1915327
- Barnes NP. Migraine headache in children. BMJ Clin Evid. 2011; 2011: 0318
- Spiri D et al. Pediatric migraine and episodic syndromes that may be associated with migraine. Ital J Pediatr. 2014; 40: 92.
- Hovaguimian A, Roth J. Management of chronic migraine BMJ 2022; 379 :e067670 doi:10.1136/bmj-2021-067670