If your child complains about having headaches, don't ignore them. Too often, parents do not realize that their children are suffering from migraines, thinking they just have a run-of-the-mill headache.
Recognizing the warning signs could save your child a lot of agony because as CBS 2's Paul Moniz reports, migraines have specific triggers and require special treatment.
Jared Greenberg, an athletic 10-year-old, suffers severe headaches. His battle with recurrent headaches began last year.
The Livingston, N.J., boy refuses to give up sports so when his headaches strike, he retreats to his bedroom.
"I take Advil, shut off the lights, turn off the music and kind of go to sleep," he says.
For the past month, Jared has been seeing Dr. Walter Molofsky, a pediatric neurologist at Beth Israel Medical Center.
"He gets a very severe headache in front of his head and he complains of nausea," Dr. Molofsky describes. "He's thrown up several times."
Dr. Molofsky suspects Jared has migraines, which affect 5 to 8 percent of all children.
There appears to be a genetic component: Jared's mother is a migraine sufferer, too.
"I was hoping it would skip us all, skip all my children, but it has not," Susan Greenberg says.
Susan Greenberg carefully monitors Jared's activity for triggers.
"The trigger that has been most recently identified is excessive activity like sports back to back," she says. "He can't go playing lacrosse and then soccer immediately thereafter. We need to take a bit of a break."
Other common migraine triggers include stress and certain foods such as chocolate, hard cheese and bananas. Sleep disturbances, bright lights and loud noises can also bring on a migraine.
The good news is that most headaches can be controlled.
The first line of treatment is lifestyle changes and over-the-counter drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen. But a new class of drugs, called tryptans, has revolutionized the way migraines are treated.
"What they do is they can abort the headache within hours, ever after you have the headache, which the analgesics really don't do," Dr. Molofsky explains.
At the moment, Jared is not taking a tryptan.
Sometimes, patients are given MRIs or CAT scans to rule out tumors or brain malformations.
Because of Jared's family history of migraines, such tests are not indicated. Instead, his doctor has asked him to keep a headache log to track triggers, in which he circles the dates when he has a headache.
Not all headaches are the same. In addition to migraines, there are tension and cluster headaches, headaches associated with head trauma and headaches caused by infection.
Determining what type of headache your child has is crucial is getting the right treatment.
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