Just For Kids

You are not alone! Seven out of every ten kids in your school will probably have had a headache at some time, and one out of every ten will have had a migraine.

What are your headaches like?

If you are reading this, it's probably because you get headaches. Maybe you get them a few times a year, every month, every week, or even every day. Maybe you've been told by your doctor or parents that the headaches you get aren't just headaches- they're migraines. Even though getting migraines is really painful and can make you miss out on fun stuff, there's nothing wrong with you, and lots of other kids get them too.

What is a Migraine?

Almost everyone gets headaches. You could get a headache from bumping your head, having a cold, or watching TV for a really long time. The pain of a headache is kind of like someone stretched a rubber band around your head, with constant pressure on your forehead and around the sides of your head.

But a migraine (MY-grayn) is not exactly a headache. Sometimes a headache is part of a migraine attack, but you could also have a migraine without any headache at all. If you have a migraine you may feel sick to your stomach or throw up. You might be extra sensitive to bright lights, loud noises, and strong smells. Usually you just want to lie down and go to sleep because moving around makes the pain worse. Sometimes you may also feel dizzy or confused, have trouble talking, or even seeing. A lot of the time you can go to sleep and when you wake up, the migraine is better, but migraines can last for hours or even days.

Migraine is a disease, but it's not one to be afraid of. It's genetic, which means someone in your family had it and passed it down to you, even if you may not know it. But it is not contagious, so you can't catch it from someone else like you can catch a cold.

Why does your head hurt?

Half of everyone with migraine started getting migraines as a kid, like you. Migraines happens because your brain is extra sensitive to change. Scientists are still trying to figure out exactly why that is. Certain things that cause migraines are called triggers. For some of us, they can be:

  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Going to sleep or getting up at different times than you usually do
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Not eating enough or skipping a meal
  • Stress

How do you know an attack is coming?

Migraines start differently for different people. Some kids just don't feel right. Some get tired, dizzy, angry, or sick to their stomachs. One in five kids with migraine have trouble talking or see patterns of lights or lines before an attack. This is called an aura (AWR-uh). Having an aura can be scary, but just think of it as a warning sign that a migraine is on the way.

What should you do when you get a migraine?

If you can tell that you're getting a migraine, you should do something right away to stop it before it gets worse. Tell an adult who can help you, like your parent, or if you're at school, your teacher or nurse.                            Some things that could help:

  • sitting or lying down
  • going someplace dark and quiet if you can
  • sleeping, even just for a little while
  • drinking water or eating something
  • putting an icepack on your head where it hurts

Getting Help

Make sure you tell your parents about your headaches, especially if they last a long time, seem to be getting worse, or are interfering with school or your after-school activities. They can arrange for you to see your doctor. 

Your doctor may want you to keep a headache diary, where you write down or draw how it feels when you get headaches, and write down things that may have caused them. It is a good way for your doctor to understand your headaches and figure out the best way to help you.


Depending on the type of headaches you get and how much it is affecting you, your doctor may suggest that you take medicine for your headaches. One kind of medication you take to try to avoid getting attack. This is called preventative medication. If you need to take medicine every night, it is important not to forget, or that could trigger an attack.  Your doctor may also give you medicine to take as soon as you start to get an attack. You might be able to keep this at school in case you need it there.