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Migraine - a really bad headache

migraine; headache; head; ache;


What is a migraine (say my-grane)?

Have you ever had a really bad headache? Nearly everyone gets them from time to time.

  • Maybe you had a really bad cold or flu.
  • Maybe you bumped your head on something.

Your head may have felt like something tight was squeezing it, or you may have felt a dull pain on top or at the back of your head.

Migraines are different.

  • migraineWith a migraine, there is a throbbing pain on one side of the head (sometimes on both sides).
  • Often the pain starts behind an eye and spreads to the whole head.
  • You may feel like throwing up, and you may even do it!
  • Many kids feel like they can't stand noise or smells or lights.
  • Most kids feel like they just want to sleep after the headache starts.
  • Many kids have blurred vision or see little white sparkly dots in front of their eyes before the pain starts. Some may feel 'pins and needles' on one side of their face. These symptoms are warning signs of a migraine coming. They are called 'aura' by health professionals.

Most people do not get any migraine headaches, some people get a lot of migraine headaches, while other people may get them once a month, or less often.

Why some people get migraines

migraine Kids are more likely to get migraines if someone else in the family gets them.
That means the risk of having a migraine is inherited in the genes they got from either their mum or dad.

Girls are three times more likely than boys to suffer from migraine after they reach puberty, and for some girls they come around the beginning of a period.

Doctors have found that there are some common triggers for these attacks.

migraineYou will need to be a detective to find which of these are triggers for you.

  • not eating regularly and missing out on meals
  • not enough sleep
  • hormone changes for girls, just before or at the beginning of a period
  • stress, and getting upset about things
  • certain foods like citrus fruit, some cheeses, chocolate and MSG (mono sodium glutamate, which is often used in Asian cooking)
  • possibly changes in the weather - some people think they can sense when a storm is coming because they get a migraine.

See your doctor


If you get headaches that make you feel sick, then ask a parent or caregiver to get your doctor to check it out.

Your doctor will be able to tell if you are having migraines.

  • You may be asked if sounds or lights bothered you before the pain started.
  • Some people see an 'aura' before a migraine starts. This is when you may see everything looking blurry or you may see flashing lights, coloured lines flashing in front of your eyes, or have a funny feeling on one side of your face.

Your doctor might tell you to try some medication to make them more bearable, like painkillers. Or the doctor may give you something that will stop you feeling sick, something to help you sleep, and even something that might stop migraines happening if you notice the warning signs that you are getting a migraine (those flashing lights or the funny feeling in your face).

What to do if you get a migraine

  • Take the medication or painkillers that your doctor has given you.
  • Lie down in a quiet place, like your bedroom.
  • Close the curtains.
  • Practise relaxation exercises, eg starting with your toes and working up to your scalp, tense and relax every muscle in your body.
  • A cool cloth or an icepack on your forehead or the top of your head may help.
  • A heat pack or hot water bottle on your stomach sometimes helps too.
  • Relax and try to sleep.

"I had a big migraine in 2004. I threw up a lot of times and then fell asleep. I even threw up in my sleep. I have had other migraines but not like that one, thank goodness!" Brett

"It's a good idea to take medication and lie down as soon as you feel a migraine coming. They don't seem to last as long then." Jill

"A wet cloth or cold pack helps me when I get migraine." B

Dr Kate says:

Dr Kate"Many kids outgrow migraines. Learn as much as possible about your triggers. You might be less likely to have an attack if you can avoid them. Girls can't stop having periods, but you can make sure you get enough to eat, and a good night's sleep.

If you find that stress is one of your triggers then our topic on 'Stress - learning to relax' may help. If you are just starting your periods then 'Menstruation - having a period' may help you to understand what is happening to your body."

Your doctor may give you some medication if you have a lot of migraines.

If you often have migraines then get your parent to talk to your teacher. They can arrange to keep any medicine you need at school. Your teacher may send you to the sick room to lie down while you wait for mum or some other adult to take you home.

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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