WEDNESDAY, June 17, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Despite the availability of medications proven to ease migraines in children, most seeking care for severe headaches are not given these drugs, a new study suggests. The findings were to be presented Wednesday the annual meeting of the American Headache Society, held from June 18 to 21 in Washington, D.C.
Using data from electronic health records to analyze care given to nearly 40,000 American children aged 6 to 17, researchers examined data from children and teens seeking care for the first time for a primary headache or migraine across a group of four states. The patients went to metropolitan and non-metropolitan primary care practices, specialty care practices, hospital emergency departments, or urgent care units. Study participants included mostly girls (57 percent). Nearly eight in 10 were white, and the average age was 12.
About 18 percent of the children and teens were diagnosed with migraine, while 46 percent weren't formally diagnosed with any condition, and 37 percent were diagnosed with headache. Girls were more likely than boys to receive medications for their pain, as were older teens between the ages of 15 and 17. The researchers also found that nearly half presenting with severe headaches for the first time weren't prescribed or recommended any pain medicine at all -- including over-the-counter medications.
"Unfortunately, too many kids are not getting the right kind of medication," study author Robert Nicholson, Ph.D., director of behavioral medicine at the Mercy Clinic Headache Center in St. Louis, told HealthDay. "Too many aren't getting a full evaluation to be able to actively determine what kind of headache they're having. But undertreatment of kids is a real concern."