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Treatments for childhood migraines

December 13, 2012
Q. What are some of the common treatments for children who have migraines?

A. There are two groups of medicines used.

“Rescue medications” are used when a child gets a migraine when in school or when immediate relief is needed. There are good rescue medications including certain inhalants, oral pills and even injectables. It depends on the level of comfort and what works best. Examples of these drugs include sumatriptan and rizatriptan.

Some other children have frequent headaches for which using a daily medication may be a better option. Most children use them once a day at night and can still take a rescue medication if needed. It depends on the symptom’s severity and what the doctor thinks will work best for the patient.

Q. Are certain medications more effective than others?

A. Some children respond to medications like ibuprofen or naprosyn, while others may need a combination to achieve effective relief. Some children vomit quite a bit, in which case using an oral medication may not be the best option. A doctor can suggest nausea medication so regular medication works.

Q. What are some alternative treatments?

A. Some herbal supplements such as petasites (butterbur) and feverfew have demonstrated benefit. There have been studies in children proving the alternative treatments’ efficacy, so the best option may be a natural supplement. Just because something is not a prescription does not mean it is less strong.

Q. What about new treatments?

A. New treatments including almotriptan and rizatriptan are now FDA approved for use in the pediatric age group. This gives parents the confidence their child is receiving something that has been scientifically studied in hundreds of children and found to be safe. Botox is also being used in children, though not FDA approved, and many youngsters have had pain relief with this intervention. It is a treatment that can be used once every three or four months and can improve the child’s quality of life.

Q. What about prevention tips?

A. Adequate sleep, down time for rest and relaxation, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy body weight and avoiding overuse of pain medications all play an important role in prevention of headaches.

According to the National Headache Foundation, more than 10 million American school age children, ages 5 to 17, are prone to headaches. About 5 percent can be attributed to migraines.

Sivaswamyis a neurologist and medical director of the headache clinic at DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan. For more information on children’s headaches and other neurological disorders, visitchildrensdmc.org/pediat


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