Children with migraine have an increased risk of performing below average in school than kids who do not have these types of headaches.

The finding, published in the journal Neurology, came from a study of 5,671 kids from Brazil, ages 5 to 12, which showed that those with migraine were 30% more likely to have below average marks in school compared to students who did not suffer from headaches.

“Studies have looked at the burden of migraine for adolescents, but less work has been done to determine the effect of migraine on younger children,” explained Marcelo E. Bigal, M.D., Ph.D., of Merck & Co. in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, study leader, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

For example, a previous study indicated that kids who experience maltreatment, including emotional, sexual, and physical abuse have a higher chance of developing frequent headaches, such as chronic migraine, later in life. Another report found that adolescent girls are more likely to complain of headache.

The researchers gathered and analyzed information on students’ performance that the teachers gave them for the study. It was also the same data that was given to academic boards.

A questionnaire was also given to the teachers, checking for emotional and behavioral issues in the children. Parents were asked questions by the educcators regarding the kids’ headaches, medical history, and other critical information.

Analysis showed that:

  • 0.6% of the students had chronic migraine, or had a migraine for 15 days or more a month
  • 9% had episodic migraine
  • 17.6% had probable migraine, meaning that they met all but one of the criteria for migraine and did not match the standards for any other kind of headache condition

A more powerful association between migraine and poor performance in school was seen in kids with:

  • migraines that lasted longer
  • migraines that were more severe
  • chronic migraine
  • emotional or behavioral issues

Bigal concluded:

“With approximately one-fourth of school-age children having headaches with migraine features, this is a serious problem, especially for those with frequent, severe attacks that do not subside quickly.

Parents and teachers need to take these headaches seriously and make sure children get appropriate medical attention and treatment.”

Written by Sarah Glynn