School and Migraines
Migraine headaches do not occur at a time that is convenient. They can strike at just about any time, including when a child is at school. This can be particularly challenging for a parent of a young child. Make sure that school staff are aware of your child's condition and know how to appropriately and quickly take action to soothe her pain. Minimizing triggers in the classroom and school environment is also critical to minimizing the frequency of your child's migraine episodes.
If your child's headache regularly develops as soon as he gets home from school, but not on the weekends, consider a visit to the ophthalmologist. It is entirely possible that your child is suffering from eyestrain caused by poor vision, and the eyestrain mainly occurs when the child is reading a whiteboard at the other end of the classroom. One quick supportive measure is to request that your child be moved to the front of the class temporarily, or that the teacher write with a darker-colored ink for a few days. If fewer headaches result, eyestrain is a good possibility.
Many parents go to great lengths to pack healthy lunches for their school-age children. However, if your child regularly eats lunch in the cafeteria, you may have little (or no) control over what she is eating there. If she dines on cheese pizza and chocolate milk every day and comes home with a headache, try sending her to school with a dairy-free and chocolate-free lunch for a week and see if her headaches abate. If the child must eat school lunch, instruct her to opt for salads, whole grain breads, and other foods with less of a chance to trigger a migraine.
If your child's headaches become debilitating, they will need help from the school. Educating your child's teacher, principal, and school nurse can be a huge step toward making them aware of the fact that your child may require their assistance. Have a proactive meeting with these key individuals, during which time you make them aware of your child's migraine early warning signs and symptoms. Leaving abortive prescription medication with the school nurse will be a comfort to your child, should the medication become necessary. It can also be helpful to leave ginger ale, quick-freeze popsicles, eyeshades, or other supportive remedies with the nurse in a special bag with your child's name on it. Make sure the school has all of your contact information, so that you can be reached quickly if your child needs you.
Children with migraine may miss school time, depending on the frequency and duration of your child's headaches. While preventative treatment can help cut down on missed class time, doctor's visits, hospitalization, and other treatments may require that your child is occasionally absent. A recent study of 970,000 school-aged migraineurs found that they missed 329,000 school days every month.
Keeping up with missed schoolwork is imperative, and not only to make sure your child does not fall behind. Migraine headaches will make your child feel that she's different and that she stands out from her classmates; if she misses assignments or projects due to her headaches, she may feel like even more of an outsider. Help her to maintain friendships with other children who can help her make up class work or bring her missed assignments.
Note that school can, in and of itself, be a migraine trigger. The stress of new teachers, a new school, difficult classmates, or any number of other factors can contribute to migraine. Once you've identified potentially triggering sources at school, work with both your child and school faculty to minimize their influence or remove them from your child's day.
Sometimes, a factor at the school could be a triggering factor for your child's migraine. Work with educators and school staff to uncover hidden triggers such as overhead fluorescent lights, teachers wearing particularly strong perfume, or pizza day in the cafeteria.