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Back to School – Migraine in Teenagers

By 2 September 2021Events, Health, Latest, Lifestyle, MAI News

Back to School – Migraine in Teenagers

Unfortunately, teenagers are not immune from migraine. This time of the year can be particularly bad due to several changes which include changes in routine, weather, the current pandemic and heading back to school!

What Causes Migraine in Teenagers?

First, no one really knows what causes migraine and why they are triggered. However, what is clear is the nervous system, brain, blood vessels and gut conspire to bring on an attack. Chemical levels in the brain change and attacks are triggered.

Like adults, children and teenagers can be taught to identify their triggers which are as individual to that every young person as spots on a leopard.

Common Triggers in Teenagers
  • Change in routine
  • Skipping meals
  • Dehydration
  • Too much or not enough physical activity
  • Food (some foods)
  • Stress
  • Screen flicker from computers or tablets
  • Studying and Exams
  • Hormones – especially for girls around puberty and their period
Seasonal Change

This time of year, can be difficult for migraineurs no matter our age as the mere change of seasons has the additional potential to trigger attacks. Temperatures, light, and weather are all beginning to fluctuate at this time of year.

  • It’s getting colder
  • Less light means shorter days and a change in sleep patterns
  • The sun is getting lower, and the light can be more blinding
  • It will also inevitably get windier, and storms are known to trigger migraine in some people.
  • The changes in barometric pressure can be a nightmare for migraineurs.
Back to School

In addition to  seasonal triggers, going back to school means a change in the routine for your child and teenager and every year at this time there is an increase in migraine attacks until a new routine is established and the migraine brain has time to adapt. This year however there are additional stresses on people going back to school or college.

These can include:

  • Finding it difficult to interact face-to-face and make new friends due to virtual school for the previous year and for some teenagers, going back to a classroom filled with other students can be a very daunting prospect.
  • Fear that other students and teachers might bring the virus to school.
  • Fear that they’ve fallen behind during lockdowns and won’t be able to catch up.

There are many things to consider when going back to what was once considered normal.

So, what can you do to help your teenager to either avoid or cope with migraine, and indeed to keep yourself and the rest of the family migraine-free?

Tips for the whole family;

  • Give yourselves plenty of time to shower, shave and shovel breakfast into you to avoid the morning mayhem
  • Get enough sleep and keep a consistent sleep pattern (even on weekends)
  • Do as much as possible the night before to prepare for the day ahead
  • Always eat breakfast and never skip a meal, or if you think you’re going to skip lunch, bring along some healthy snacks
  • Drink adequate amounts of water throughout the day
  • There’s not a lot you can do about the September weather, but you can be as prepared as possible by keeping all necessary medications handy and ready to use
  • Limit exposure to triggers, keep a diary to try to find them or use a migraine app to help track triggers and patterns in your attacks
  • Exercise daily, even a walk around the block may be beneficial
  • Make sure your teenagers have extra masks and hand sanitiser and if you’ve chosen to get them vaccinated against Covid-19, that they are aware of what is safe and not safe for them to do

Tips for parents of children with migraine – including all of the above tips;

  • Talk to the school and/or teacher about your child’s migraine and tell them what needs to be done during
    • Class time
    • P.E. time
    • Before sports
    • On outings.
  • Give them our leaflets to look at, we’ll be happy to send them to you
  • Ask them if they have a room that can be darkened or made comfortable for your child should a migraine attack begin. Sometimes a 15-minute break for medication or hydration, and even a nap can be all that’s needed to keep a teenager in school
  • If your child suffers chronically, have a GP’s note on their file with information on the disorder and their medication
  • Have a homework plan and leave plenty of time for breaks if necessary
  • Ask teachers to:
    • Limit time at the computer in the classroom or on tablets
    • Allow a snack and water to be taken in class
    • Allow a break if necessary
  • Check out the State Examinations Commission to see about Reasonable Accommodations for the state exams and Dare or Ahead for college and onwards
  • Have your child keep a diary and keep one yourself with them, this can serve as both encouragement for them, and may allow you to note something they might miss
  • Make sure you are familiar with the school’s Covid-19 policies so that you can be assured of and reassure a nervous teenager about the safety of going back to school

Tips for Teenagers;

  • Keep your migraine diary
  • Try to keep calm during exams in school
  • Make sure you drink plenty of water
  • Ask your teacher to open or close a window if it’s too hot or cold
  • If the lights are too bright, ask the teacher to turn them off
  • If you need a break, ask your teacher – he/she should be aware that you might need it
  • Familiarise yourself with the school’s Covid-19 policies to reassure yourself that the school is doing all it can to protect you
  • Bring extra masks and hand sanitiser with you in case you need them.

Students Studying for State Exams

  • Stay calm as much as possible. Organise your study time well in advance to help you to reduce your own stress. Make a revision timetable or schedule to suit you. Discuss this with your parents and teacher if you think they may be able to help.
  • Talk about the Reasonable Accommodations that can be granted by the State Examinations Commission. (See below) If you don’t think the official accommodations are necessary, discuss with your parents, teacher and school what they might be able to do to help.
  • Study in a place and environment that suits you. Some people like to work in their room, others in a library. Use whatever works for you.
  • Ask for help when you need to. No matter what kind of help you need, be it emotional or educational, don’t be afraid to ask. Sometimes having someone to study with can lighten the burden, chances are, they have many of the same fears and worries as you do.
  • Studying can be stressful and takes quite a lot of energy. Make sure you stick to your usual routine as much as possible.
  • Take regular breaks and eat regular meals.
  • Try to avoid anything that might trigger your migraine, and don’t be afraid to take a longer break than normal if you’re not feeling well. If you’re sick you can’t concentrate, and if you can’t concentrate, you can’t study.
  • Be careful not to skip meals to keep studying and make sure you have access to plenty of water.
  • Make sure you go to bed at the same time each night. Staying up late to study is a sure-fire way of triggering a migraine. Don’t cram if you can help it. If you’ve scheduled everything well in advance, there should be no need to cram. Sleep is also important for your memory and concentration. If you don’t get enough sleep, they can be badly affected.
  • Try to distract yourself from studying every now and then. If you play sports, then go training. If you like walking or running, go out and get some fresh air. Give your eyes and head a break. Do something that will relax you.
  • If you are feeling stressed and it’s all getting too much for you, tell someone, even if it’s only a friend. Don’t keep it in. Parents, teachers and friends are happy to help. If you don’t feel comfortable about talking to people you know, then explore Jigsaw’s School Hub for aid for your mental health and to talk to someone online jigsaw.ie/schoolhub/

Migraine and State Examinations

Under certain circumstances special arrangements can be made to facilitate a student with migraine when taking state examinations. Some of these arrangements can be made by the school while for others it is necessary for the school to contact the Reasonable Accommodations Section of the State Examinations Commission.

For more information see www.examinations.ie

Email: race@examinations.ie
Phone: 090 644 2782
Fax: 090 644 2744

What should I do if I get a migraine attack at school?

If you feel a migraine coming on, then treat it as early as possible. The earlier you try to stop it the better. If you’re at school or college, tell your teacher. They should be already aware of how to help you. Then if possible

  • Have a drink or eat something
  • Take your migraine medication as prescribed
  • Sit quietly or lie down
  • Try to sleep, even for a few minutes
  • Take it slowly when you get back to the classroom until you feel better

These tips can help, but if you need more information or would like information for your school or teachers then please email us at info@migraine.ie

All information contained in this post is intended for informational and educational purposes. The information is not intended nor suited to be a replacement or substitute for professional medical treatment or for professional medical advice relative to a specific medical question or condition.

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