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Botox for Children’s Migraine Headaches


If your child suffers from migraines, Botox may be able to help. Typically thought of as a beauty enhancement, Botox has also become an effective treatment for people that experience 15 or more migraine attacks each month.

Botox is a form of a toxin that temporarily freezes the muscles. It helps to prevent migraines by blocking muscle spasms.

Since Botox has been approved for treating adults with migraines, researchers from the University of California, Irvine, wanted to know if Botox would also work for children and adolescents.

The study included nine children and adolescents between ages 8 and 17 years of age. Over a period of five years, the participants received treatments every 12 weeks, and saw significant decreases in the frequency and severity of their headaches. The Botox had no major side effects.

Initially, the children and teens reported their pain levels during migraines as being between four and eight, on average. After Botox injections, these levels fell to a rant of 1.75 to five. Originally, they had experienced migraines anywhere from eight to nearly 30 days of each month, but after Botox, the patients got between two and 10 monthly migraines.

The study noted that many adults that have migraines began having them as children. By the time they receive the Botox treatments, they’ve been suffering for many years.

Dr Shalini Shah, one of the study’s co-authors told Daily Mail Online that management of children’s migraines mostly comes down to trial and error.
Typical treatment for children with migraines includes over the counter or prescription Tylenol or Advil.  If those drugs don’t help, a child might be prescribed a seizure medication, which Shah says children don’t tolerate well.

Shah has been using Botox off-label to treat migraines in her pediatric patients for years.

‘Most of the kids I get [as patients] are being home-schooled,’ she says. Their migraines are so debilitating, and, in many cases last multiple days, that they are not able to attend regular school and keep up with assignments.

What’s worse, she says, is that other treatments - like Advil, Tylenol or seizure medications – are sedatives that can make children drowsy and nauseous.

The treatments for migraines themselves leave children ‘half-asleep, and that’s no way to really live,’ she says. Both migraines and their medications cause children to struggle in school.

To treat migraines, Botox is injected at several sites at the front, back and sides of the head and in the neck, in both adults and children.

 Shah says that Botox has been used to treat many other forms of head pain in children, including headaches with other causes, like cancer. But the FDA hasn’t approved its use for migraines simply because ‘it’s never been systematically studied,’ she says.

Shah recommends that parents who are considering taking their child for Botox treatment make sure that they find a physician with plenty of experience.

While side effects may be low, Botox is not risk-free.

The primary risk with Botox is that the toxin could travel to other parts of the body. Even locally, if it traveled just slightly from the injection site, clinicians have to worry that it could paralyze muscles used in breathing or freeze the neck in an odd or uncomfortable position.
So far, the study authors have not observed these or other longer-term effects after giving more than 1,000 injections, Shah said.

There is no way to completely prevent the chemical from traveling, but someone experienced giving Botox injections is the best way to reduce risks.

Shah says that these results ‘demonstrate promise’ to finally provide more than a trial and error approach to preventing and treating migraines in children and teens, but she says that the forthcoming, larger trial is needed to prove that Botox is safe and effective for a younger demographic.
The study’s results were presented at the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ Anesthesiology 2017 annual meeting in Boston, Massachusetts.  The research team noted that about 60 percent of visits to pediatric headache specialists are for migraines.

Story source: Natalie Rahhal, 


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