Published on 09th April 2018

Edited on 09th April 2018


As with adults, migraines are a common problem amongst teenagers and young people. If your teenager does suffer from regular migraines or headaches it’s important to remember that they are not alone. Read on to learn more about migraine pain in teenagers.

A headache vs. a migraine

A migraine is more than just a headache and can sneak up on sufferers really quickly. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if your teenager is experiencing a migraine or a bad headache. Often if they are suffering with a migraine, in addition to a throbbing headache, your teenager may experience the following associated symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Increased sensitivity to light and sound
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling very hot or very cold
  • Stomach pain

Types of migraine

There are several different types of migraine which generally fall into the following categories:

  • Migraine with aura: Sufferers may experience warning signs such as seeing flashing lights just before a migraine attack. Aura symptoms can last up to an hour and may be frightening the first time your teenager experiences them. Rest assured, this will pass once the attack subsides.
  • Migraine without aura: Often the most common type of migraine, where a migraine strikes without warning signals.
  • Migraine aura without headache: Sometimes known as a silent migraine where an aura or other related migraine symptoms, such as a sharp stomach pain, develop without a headache .

What triggers a migraine in teenagers?

Researchers are still uncertain about the exact causes of migraines. Nevertheless, there is a possibility that genetics play a role in how likely you are to experience migraines. According to the NHS, migraines may also be the outcome of abnormal brain activity temporarily affecting nerve signals, chemicals and blood vessels in the brain. From lifestyle choices to environmental triggers many factors could lead to a migraine.

Here are a few common teenage migraine triggers to look out for:


Some people find that a missed meal or poor quality sleep set off a migraine. If your teenager does suffer with migraines, it’s thought that sticking to a regular routine could help manage migraine attacks. However as a teenager with sports to do, friends to see, exams to prepare for and parties to attend, sticking to a routine is often easier said than done!


With exams, homework and other teenage pressures, it is no surprise that stress is a common migraine trigger. If your teenager appears stressed out or depressed, remind them they shouldn’t try to deal with it alone. Encourage them to speak to someone they trust, and to get organised making sure they factor in time to relax between studying.

Hormonal changes

Puberty can be a difficult time for teenagers; hormones can be all over the place which can affect migraines. Girls who suffer from migraines may find that their period is a direct trigger.


If your teen suffer from migraines, what and when they eat could have an effect on their migraines. Skipping meals and not drinking enough throughout the day (especially if your teen play sports) could trigger a migraine. Gently remind them to eat regularly and stay hydrated.

Certain foods are also thought to trigger migraine attacks. Common dietary triggers can include:

  • Too many caffeine products such as tea and coffee
  • Specific foods such as chocolate, citrus fruits or cheese
  • Alcohol – this could be a trigger for older teens once they are old enough to drink

Managing teenage migraines

As the saying goes, prevention is often better than the cure. If your teenager does suffer with migraines it’s a good idea for them to keep a migraine diary tracking the frequency and severity of their migraines. Encourage them to note down as many details as possible as this can help to identify their personal migraine triggers which can be avoided in future. A few points to consider writing down include:

  • What they ate that day and at what time
  • What they were doing just before their migraine began
  • What time they woke up
  • How they feel
  • For girls, the date of their period

If your teenager feels a migraine coming on the most important thing for them to do is tell someone about it, whether that’s a parent, a carer or a teacher. The sooner they act the better they will be able to manage their migraine. Some people find that the following can help to deal with migraine symptoms:

  • Have a drink or something to eat
  • Sit or lie down in a dark and quiet room
  • Take a rest or have a sleep


If your teenager does suffer from migraines over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen, can help provide relief from headaches and migraines. Nurofen Migraine Pain contains Ibuprofen Lysine which helps provide relief.*

*Adults and children from 12 years: Take 1 or 2 caplets with water, up to three times a day as necessary, leaving at least four hours between doses (maximum 6 caplets in 24 hours). Always read the label.

Advice for Parents and Carers

It can be difficult watching your teenager suffer with migraines but there are ways you can help them to cope with their migraine attacks.

  • Diagnosis: If you suspect your teenager is suffering from migraines book an appointment with your GP. The sooner the problem is diagnosed the sooner they can start managing their migraines accordingly.
  • Record: Encourage your teenager to keep a migraine diary to help track their triggers.
  • Support: Make sure your teenager’s school or college is aware of the problem as they may need extra time and support to catch up on missed work.
  • Reassure: Migraines can be frightening, especially when you experience one for the first time, so being their to help your teenager through an attack can make a big difference.

When to see a doctor

If you find your teenager is suffering from frequent or severe migraines, it’s a good idea to book an appointment with your GP. The more information they can provide about their migraines, the easier it will be for your doctor to help.

If your teenager’s migraines are associated with any of the following symptoms you should seek medical help immediately:

  • Paralysis or weakness
  • Garbled speech
  • A head pain unlike anything you have experienced before
  • Fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Mental confusion
  • Seizure
  • Double vision
  • Rash

All information is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. For further advice please speak to your doctor or pharmacist.