Abdominal Migraine

Abdominal migraines, classified as a migraine variant, is a disorder that doesn’t necessarily occur with head pain but causes abdominal distress, nausea and vomiting. This migraine variant typically occurs in children between the ages of five and nine, though rare cases in adults have been reported. They are most common in children with a family history of migraines. Sadly, children who experience abdominal migraines in their youth will often suffer from cranium-based migraines in their adult lives.


To determine whether your child’s abdominal pain might be an abdominal migraine, watch for the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain that lasts up to 72 hours and is located midline or near the navel
  • Dark circles under the eyes or loss of color
  • Reduction in appetite or unhealthy eating habits
  • Queasiness and vomiting


Diagnostic criteria from IHS:

A. At least 5 attacks fulfilling criteria B-D
B. Attacks of abdominal pain lasting 1-72 hours (untreated or unsuccessfully treated)
C. Abdominal pain has all of the following characteristics:

  • Midline location, periumbilical or poorly localized
  • Dull or “just sore” quality
  • Moderate or severe intensity

D. During abdominal pain at least 2 of the following:

  • Anorexia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pallor

E. Not attributed to another disorder

In order to safely diagnosed an abdominal migraine, other conditions like gastrointestinal or renal disease must be ruled out. Children who are thought to suffer from abdominal migraines must also have experienced these symptoms on at least five different occasions. Only a close review of family history, symptoms and the ruling out of other conditions can help in the diagnoses of abdominal migraines.


Successfully treating abdominal migraines can be a lengthy process that calls for a comprehensive treatment plan. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, Advil or Motrin are successful but can bring problems like abdominal pain and bleeding, especially when taken for long periods of time.

Preventative migraine drugs often work for treating abdominal migraines, but doctors typically consider the age of the patient when prescribing them. Medications used to treat abdominal migraines include triptans, which constrict blood vessels and possibly inhibit inflammation. Other prescriptions include anti-nausea drugs and sedatives combined with acetaminophen.


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