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How to Curb Child Migraine Pain and Bacteria

How to Curb Child Migraine Pain and Bacteria

Our experts provide the latest research on migraines and hand sanitizers.

Q: My nine-year-old son was in bed with a headache and vomiting. Our doc thinks he may have had a migraine. How is that possible? And if that’s true, what can we do to prevent another one from happening? —Kaitlin V., Portland, OR

A: Unfortunately, there’s a good chance your doc is spot on. Migraine headaches are not uncommon in youngsters. Around 5 to 10 percent of all school-age kids get them, and half of all migraine sufferers have their first attack before age 12. Vomiting happens to around 90 percent of children who suffer migraines.

If your primary care doc or pediatrician can’t recommend a headache specialist, check out the Migraine Research Foundation for info on certified headache specialists in your area. Treating childhood migraine can be challenging. Many of the medications that are approved for adults aren’t okay for children under 12. If there is another migraine sufferer in the family—and migraine tends to run in families—do not give your child someone else’s medication.

Depending on the frequency and severity of future attacks, there are several levels of treatments that kids can receive: They include medications, cognitive behavioral therapy, even ganglion blocks or Botox. But sometimes the best treatment is bed rest in a dark, quiet room, and OTC (over-the-counter) pain relievers seem to work too.

However, one of the biggest problems for kids who get migraines is the anxiety they feel about when the next attack will come. To identify triggers and see patterns, it’s smart to keep a diary that tracks your child’s food, sleep and activity and when and how long each headache lasts (there are several apps for that). That way you can identify possible triggers, such as a specific stress (before a test at school), food, exercise or too much or too little sleep.

Q: I heard that hand sanitizers are losing their ability to fend off hospital germs. What are we supposed to do now? —Arthur S., Detroit, MI

A: Hand sanitizers are still very effective against MRSA and other hospital-frequenting bugs, so keep using them every time you go in and out of a hospital room. But there’s no reason not to rely on good old-fashioned soap and water—in the hospital and out in the world at large.

The report you’re referring to came from an Australian study that found the bacteria E. faecium (which are already resistant to some antibiotics) are getting better at withstanding alcohol-based hand sanitizer. That’s concerning because according to the CDC, at least 2 million people a year in the US are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and at least 23,000 die from those infections; untold others die from other conditions made worse by an antibiotic-resistant infection.

Each of you plays a role in helping to reduce the growing problem by not taking antibiotics for viral infections or for bacterial infections that would resolve safely by themselves—and apparently, now, by not using hand sanitizer as your first, impulsive way to stay clean. Also, avoid eating animal products that are treated with antibiotics—80 percent of antibiotics sold in the US are for use in raising livestock.

Fortunately, there’s interesting news about the possible development of new, more resistance-proof antibiotics. A recent Swiss study has identified a group of potential antibiotics from a weed called thale cress. The Swiss researchers found over 200 species of bacteria living on this Swiss weed’s flowers and leaves, with hundreds of molecular interactions between the different strains. That bacterial hub works a bit like your gut biome: Good bacteria (both on the leaves and in your intestines) are able to muscle out bad ones (like harmful strains of E coli in your gut). One strain in particular called macrobrevin seemed like the best candidate. The next step is to see if it can stop the growth of bad bacteria that cause disease in humans.

Medically reviewed in March 2020.

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