Headaches and Migranes

A man holding his head due to a headache

Headache in young people is very common. 

Facts from a school survey

  • 1 in 5 young people at school get headache one or more times a week
  • 1 in 10 young people at school have quality of life due to headache which is worse than young people with asthma, diabetes or cancer
  • Young people with headache lose on average 7 days of school a year because of their headache.

The most troublesome type of headache is called migraine. This is a bad headache that can last between an hour or so and up to 48 hours. In some cases the migraine headache can start with disturbances of vision which can be distressing. The headache can also be accompanied by other things including sickness, the light hurting your eyes and ordinary noises seeming very loud. Often you may want to sit or lie down in a quiet room and be still. Often, one of your parents or family members may have the problem. In girls, migraine may be worse around the time of their period.

The other main type of headache is called tension type headache. This is less severe than migraine and can be caused by stress. Often migraine and tension type headache can overlap but fortunately, the treatment of both is quite similar.

Treatment of migraine headaches

The best form of treatment is to try and stop them from coming. People with migraine don’t respond to changes in things as well as those people who don’t have headache. For this reason it is important to keep things as constant as possible: 

  • Keep sleep patterns as constant as possible - setting regular times for getting up and going to bed may help to avoid a migraine. 
  • Dehydration is a key cause of migraine and it is important to drink regularly throughout the day. 
  • Eating regularly is also important and following a routine that includes regular meals may help to reduce the migraine headaches. It is important not to skip or miss a meal.

Sometimes migraine headaches can be triggered by certain types of food but you may have already recognised this. Fizzy drinks and junk food usually don’t help and it is important to avoid too many of these.

One of the most common causes of migraine is stress. This can come from a number of areas and dealing with stress can be difficult. When you feel stressed there are some things you can do to help reduce it. The school nurse or GP practice nurse may be the best person to discuss this with. Often, it may be helpful to take a friend with you.

Treating the migraine attack

It is important to treat a migraine as soon as you can. The longer you leave it the less effective medicine is going to be. Paracetamol or Ibuprofen can be very helpful. These medicines can also be taken together as they work in different ways. If these simple measures don’t help then you should either see the school nurse or make an appointment to see your family doctor.

Read more about migraines here.