If headaches are one of mankind’s most prevalent and impactful infirmities—it is estimated that 1 out of 2 people worldwide has had a headache in the past year—then the sheer number of children and adolescents affected by headaches must be absolutely jaw dropping. As of July 2016, an astonishing 33% of the world’s population was younger than age 19.1 This translates into nearly 2.5 billion children who must suffer what many adults consider to be excruciating episodes of pain and debility often lasting hours or days.
Indeed, Bille and colleagues2 concluded that as many as 75% of children experience a significant headache by age 15, and that 28% of these headaches fulfill the International Classification of Headache Disorders 2 (ICHD2) criteria for migraine headaches.3,4 Affected children can be on a collision course with a number of comorbid conditions, such as depression and anxiety, as well as compromised interpersonal relationships with family and friends. Children who suffer from headaches often withdraw from social groups and activities—likely, in part, from their fear of being stricken with “the next big headache.”5 Their cephalalgic condition can follow them into adulthood, when they may experience major difficulties coping with a chronic unrelenting sickness from which there appears to be no escape.
In this article, I will cover some of the more common and successful pharmacological options available to the pediatric and adolescent migraine populations—especially for those aged 15 and older.
1. World Demographics Profile 2017.
2. Bille BO. Migraine in school children. Acta Paediatr.1962;51(Suppl. 136):16–151.
3. The International Classification of Headache Disorders 3rd Edition (Beta Version)- https://www.ichd-3.org/
4. Kabbouche MA, Gilman D. Management of migraine in adolescents. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2008;4:535-548.
5. Headache disorders. Fact Sheet. Updated 2016. World Health Organization.
6. Kacperski J, Hershey AD. Newly approved agents for the treatment and prevention of pediatric migraine. CNS Drugs. 2016;30:837-844.
7. Hamalainen ML, Hoppu K, Valkeila F, Santavuori P. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen for the acute treatment of migraine in children: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover study. Neurology. 1997;48:103-107.
8. Lewis D, Ashwal S, Hershey A, et al. Practice Parameter: Pharmacological reatment of migraine headache in children and adolescents. Report of the American Academy of Neurology Quality Standards Subcommittee and the Practice Committee of the Child Neurology Society. Neurology. 2004;63:22152224.
9. Brenner M, Lewis D. The treatment of migraine headaches in children and adolescents. J Pediatr Pharmacol Ther. 2008;13:17–24.
10. Pediatric and adolescent migraine. Headache Toolbox. American Headache Society. Headache.