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This Unexpected Migraine Symptom Often Affects Children

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I’ve written a few blogs and articles about migraine, the confusing and debilitating symptoms it posits, and all the other odd phenomenon that comes with the disease. I am now writing about another migraine type that many people are unfamiliar with, even those who live with migraine.

My daughter was 8 years old when she first had her migraine symptoms. We were at a water park all day with some friends and had decided to end the fun day with dinner. She then began to feel nauseous, though she had a hard time explaining how she felt at the moment. “Mommy, my stomach feels weird,” she said. I thought she was probably dehydrated from being under the sun all day or perhaps hungry, so I told her to relax, and that we would get her something to eat and drink. After a few minutes, we found ourselves in the bathroom with her vomiting and in excruciating pain. Not long after, she said, “Mommy, my head hurts.” The day ended with my baby asleep on my lap.

According to American Migraine Foundation, “Migraine is hereditary, so if one or both parents has migraine, there is a 50-75 % chance their child will be affected.” As a person who lives with migraine attacks almost every day, I knew right away that she had just experienced her first migraine attack.”

I took my daughter to her pediatrician to make sure there was nothing more seriously wrong with her. I was surprised by her diagnosis. “She has a stomach migraine,” my baby’s doctor had informed me. A stomach migraine? Baffled, I asked myself, “Migraine is a headache, isn’t it?”

According to American Migraine Foundation, “Some children experience abdominal pain with an attack.” AMF further explains, “Abdominal migraine is a sub-type of migraine seen mainly in children. It consists of episodes of abdominal pain with nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, or pallor. Between episodes, there should be no symptoms. Children with abdominal migraine generally go on to develop migraine headaches later in life.” I then realized that there is so much more to a migraine condition. It is not just a headache!

My baby is now 18 years old, and as AMF had explained, she now experiences headaches with her migraine attacks which were always preceded by stomach discomfort. We would often miss the warning signs, blaming her episodes on different issues such as food poisoning or a simple stomachache until I’m reminded of her first migraine experience. Of course, not all stomachaches are migraine symptoms, so it is always vital to check with your doctors. It is also beneficial to learn about migraine attacks, especially if you or your child have been diagnosed with the condition.

What are the symptoms of abdominal migraine in children?

According to Yale Medicine, “The main symptoms of abdominal migraine are recurrent episodes of moderate to severe stomach pain that lasts for between 1 and 72 hours. Other symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and pale appearance. (The symptoms rarely occur between episodes.)”

If you, as a parent, live with a migraine or suspect your child might be experiencing an abdominal migraine, please see a neurologist or a pediatrician and get the proper diagnosis. Though it is essential to read and be knowledgeable about migraine conditions and their symptoms, it does not replace an accurate diagnosis from a neurologist.

So next time your child or anyone in your family complains about abdominal pain without a cause, especially if you as a parent live with the debilitating symptoms of migraine yourself, seek medical help from a pediatrician or a neurologist and ask about the possibility of abdominal migraine. Remember that a migraine is more than just a headache.

This story originally appeared on Jennifer’s blog.

Originally published: June 30, 2021
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