Treatment of migraine in children

Fortunately, migraine attacks in children are often short-lived and generally resolve with a few hours of sleep.

Migraines in children often respond to simple pain relievers. The recommended medicines are:

  • ibuprofen (Nurofen for children)
  • paracetamol (Children’s Panadol).

Aspirin (Disprin, Aspro Clear) is not recommended for children under the age of 12 years because its use in children is linked to the rare but potentially fatal condition, Reye’s syndrome.

For children and teens aged 12–16 years, consult your doctor or pharmacist before giving aspirin.

Medicines for nausea and vomiting, such as metoclopramide, prochlorperazine and promethazine (also a sedating antihistamine) should be used with caution because movement-related side effects are more common in children.

Triptans are not suitable for use in children aged 12 years and under, although sumatriptan nasal spray can be used in the 12–17 years age group.

Children who suffer frequent and severe migraine attacks may require specialist (neurologist) intervention. Preventive therapy can prove helpful, but management is more complicated than for adults.

Small mistakes with medicines can cause big problems in little bodies. Knowing how to accurately measure and administer medicines to children will help to avoid accidental overdosing or underdosing. Read important information for parents and carers who are giving medicines to children.

  • British Association for the Study of Headache. Guidelines for all health professionals in the diagnosis and management of migraine, tension-type-type headache, cluster headache and medication overuse headache. Hull: BASH, 2010. (accessed 13 December 2011)
  • Neurology Writing Group. Therapeutic Guidelines: Neurology, Version 4 Updated November 2011 [eTG complete CD-ROM]. Melbourne: Therapeutic Guidelines Ltd, 2011.
  • Rossi S, ed. Australian Medicines Handbook. Adelaide: Australian Medicines Handbook Pty Ltd, 2012.
  • Evers S, Afra J, Frese A, et al. EFNS guideline on the drug treatment of migraine - a revised report of an EFNS task force. European Journal of Neurology 2009;16:968-81.