Pediatric migraines are not something moms typically talk about, right? I do not suffer from migraines. Even though my husband does, he didn’t have them at such a young age, and his often seem related to muscle tension and the amount of screen time he’s exposed to while working in the IT field, so I really had no inkling that our child would suffer from them.
Seven years-old seems incredibly young to be experiencing migraines, in my opinion. As it turns out, I just wasn’t educated on the matter.
My son’s migraines showed up one day, very unexpectedly. I was caught entirely off guard and I didn’t identify what he was experiencing as a migraine initially. It was the night before my husband and I were headed out of town for a long weekend to attend a wedding. We would be leaving our two children in the capable hands of my in-laws the following morning.
We were sitting at the dinner table, having almost polished off our meal when my 7 year-old son looked at me and said,
Mom, I think I’m going to throw up…
I looked at my husband and considered the timing of this new development. I felt bad but I knew in my heart that if my son had the stomach flu, I would not get on the airplane in the morning. I couldn’t leave him ill; my heart wouldn’t do it. I will spare you the graphic details but I will say that for the next 10 minutes or so, it looked like my son had just come down with a violent bug. Then he collapsed on the couch, complained his head hurt, and said that he was extremely thirsty. We made him comfortable and let him rest.
Yet, about 45 minutes after that, you would never have known he had been sick. He was up, said he felt much better and was running around playing with his sister. My husband and I were a bit surprised but chalked this odd episode up to anxiety. We thought that he had just been nervous knowing his father and I were going away for four days.
He was fine the whole time we were gone and for the first couple of days after we returned from our trip.
Exactly a week after the first episode, we were mostly through our dinner when it struck again.
I had some major deja vu. My son experienced the same pattern of symptoms. The only difference was that I had gotten dinner on the table late and, by the time he finished with his episode, my son crawled into bed and quickly fell fast asleep. That is when my parental worry set in.
Why had he been fine for an entire week? Could this be viral? Why was it only happening at dinner time?
I could not find any reason to blame his sickness on something he ate. Rice and vegetables seemed benign enough and the rest of our family had not felt ill after eating. I did what a concerned parent should never do, I started Googling his symptoms. You can imagine the scenarios I was playing in my head by the end of the night, but the possibilities ranged anywhere from migraines to brain tumors.
I called the pediatrician’s office. The nurse told me since it had only happened twice, to keep some ibuprofen on hand and give that to him at the beginning of an episode if another came. Beyond that, she said to call back if there was a third episode. I didn’t have to wait long.
About 23 hours after the second episode, the third migraine came.
Right after my son finished dinner, I asked him to change for his Little League game. The minute he came downstairs after changing, he let out a cry and ran for the bathroom yet again. My husband stayed with him while I called the pediatrician. The nurse assured me she would talk to the doctor in the morning and call me back about what I should do next.
By the time I hung up the phone, however, my son already felt better. He was tired but said his headache was gone. The episode lasted only 15-20 minutes; his shortest one yet. Still, I was worried.
When your child has a fever, you give them something for it, and it eventually goes away. Fevers are somewhat predictable. The only thing predictable about these episodes my son was experiencing was that they occurred at dinner time only. Or so I thought. Because, like always, just when you think you have one piece of the puzzle, the universe laughs and provides you with a reality check.
The next day, my son’s class went on a field trip to an indoor water park. I substitute teach at the school and was going on the same trip. Given that my son’s episodes had all occurred during dinner, I figured the field trip would be smooth sailing.
After having a great time all morning, my son sat down for lunch, ate most of it, and then burst into tears out of the blue yet again.
I gave him some ibuprofen I was carrying with me. I spent the next 45 minutes with him in a locker room, trying to calm him down, supporting him through his nausea, trying to call the pediatrician’s office back, and attempting to hide my panic. The school nurse was on the trip, thankfully, and she helped me calm him down, try to get him as comfortable as possible, and support me.
I booked an appointment with the pediatrician for that evening.
I hadn’t had a parenting situation that left me feeling that helpless in a while. Not like this. I wanted to cry for him. Desperation swept over me; I just wanted to take his pain away. He was scared, and I was too. Since all of his pediatric migraine episodes had developed during or right after eating, he was also getting scared to eat. While I completely understood where that fear came from, not eating just made the whole situation more difficult. Now I was not only worried about the episodes, but I was also worried about my son not eating enough and passing out. Those few days rank high on my list of top 10 hardest days of parenting.
I wrote all the information about my son’s episodes and recounted it to his doctor.
It turns out that these episodes are my son’s version of pediatric migraines.
His episodes are unpredictable. I have not yet found what triggers them and while I might figure it out someday, there may never be an answer. What I know, however, is that in many cases, you can prevent migraines from developing so frequently under the direction of a doctor. My son now has specific vitamin supplements he takes to prevent his pediatric migraines. He also has medicine (both at home and school) to alleviate symptoms should he develop a migraine.
Thankfully, this is all working for him and he has not had a migraine episode since lunchtime at the water park. His doctor said that he still may get migraines from time to time but they should be fewer and farther between.
I realize that he may possibly have migraines for the rest of his life and that the method we use to control them will need to be modified as he grows. For now, we are taking it one day at a time.I’ve done more research over the past couple of weeks on migraines. Migraines manifest themselves differently in each individual, and migraines in younger children present differently than in older children. There are also multiple types of migraines.
I found the following resources useful as I have educated myself on this topic:
If you are fascinated by science, there are many peer-reviewed journal articles on pediatric migraines available for free on the internet.