When we know more about Migraine disease, it becomes easier to live with. Knowledge makes it less mysterious and frightening and helps us know how to best care for ourselves and when to use our treatments. It also prepares us to work effectively with our doctors as treatment partners. When we have children in our lives, we need to pay special attention to explaining Migraine to children.
There are a couple of excellent reasons for explaining Migraine to children:
- It can be frightening for children to witness parents, other family members, or other people to whom they’re close having a Migraine attack. It can become less frightening if they understand what’s going on, that the person will be all right, and if there are any little things they can do to help. Even the small act of giving someone an ice pack can empower a child with the feeling of having been able to help.
- If the child has Migraine disease, they could be frightened about what’s happening to them. If they’re going to need to live with Migraine, the earlier we can teach them about taking good care of themselves, the better. Although we’d love to always be with them to protect them and advocate for them, we can’t be. Teaching them about Migraine helps them to grow into confident empowered adults who partner well with their health care providers and are less susceptible to the impact of the social stigma associated with Migraine.
My approach to explaining Migraine to children
As her “Granny” who has Migraine and “wrote the book on Migraine,” it was natural for me to be the one to explain Migraine to our oldest granddaughter. Below, is how I accomplished that task. When I shared it with some of my colleagues and some Migraine specialists, they liked it, and suggested that I share it for others who could or would be explaining Migraine to children.
Depending on the age of the child, you can read this to them, tell them in your own words, read it with them, or whatever works best for you. Please feel free to print it for your child or share the link. Also, at the end of the article, you’ll find a space for comments. Please feel free to share with us your own experiences of explaining Migraine to children and any comments and thoughts you have on the subject. Without further ado, here we go…
Let’s talk about Migraine attacks
Do you or someone you know have Migraines? There are things people with Migraines need to know so we can take good care of ourselves and try to keep Migraines from getting in the way of doing the things we want to do. I’ve had Migraines since I was 6-years-old, and I remember how hard it was when my friends were doing things while I was stuck at home in my room with a Migraine.
The good news is that doctors know a lot more about Migraines than they did then, and they can do a lot more to help us with our Migraines.
Let’s talk for a minute about what Migraines are. They’re not exactly headaches. Sometimes, a headache is part of a Migraine attack, but sometimes we can have a Migraine without a headache. There are other things called symptoms that go with a Migraine. We don’t need to have all of them, but we usually have some of them. These other symptoms can be:
- nausea (upset stomach)
- our eyes being extra sensitive to light
- being extra sensitive to sound
- feeling confused
- having trouble talking
Migraine is a disease, but it’s not a disease to be afraid of. It’s inherited, so someone in your family, now or in the past, has or had Migraines, even if they didn’t realize it. They might have thought they just had headaches. Migraine disease isn’t contagious. If you have it, you can’t give it to someone else, and someone with Migraine disease can’t give it to you.
- not getting enough sleep
- getting too much sleep
- flickering lights
- a room that’s too hot
- not drinking enough and getting dehydrated
- being in the sun too long
- other things…
Have you studied neurons in school yet? Neurons are special nerve cells that carry messages. The human brain has about 100 billion neurons! People with Migraines have some neurons that are too excited. Sometimes, when we meet one of our Migraine triggers those neurons get even more excited and that starts the Migraine.
Medicines like Tylenol and Advil can help some if we have a headache with our Migraines, but they can’t make the migraine stop. There are medicines that can make Migraines stop. They’re called migraine abortive medications. There’s one that’s been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be used by kids 6 years old and older. It’s called Maxalt (rizatriptan). There’s another one that’s been approved to be used by kids 12 years old and older, called Axert (almotriptan). Both of these have to be prescribed by your doctor.
If you have headaches or what you think might be Migraines, it’s important to tell your parents and ask them to take you to the doctor so your doctor can tell you what’s going on if you’re having some type of headache, or if you’re having Migraines. That’s something we need to know so we can take care of ourselves and take the right kind of medicine.
When you have a Migraine, be sure to tell your parents when you have one. Don’t just try to keep doing whatever you were doing. You will need to take your medicine and lie down a bit. When you take your medicine as soon as you know you have a Migraine, it works better.
Do you have questions about Migraines? If you’re 13 or older, post a comment below, and I’ll try to answer them for you. If you’re under 13, get your parents to post a comment for you. You can also ask your doctor any questions you have the next time you see your doctor. It’s OK to ask your doctor questions. Answering your questions is part of his or her job.
Chudler, Eric H. “Types of Neurons.” Neruoscience for Kids.