Abdominal Migraine in Children & Adults: Symptoms, Treatment

Abdominal migraine - An overview

Abdominal migraine is a variant of migraine, predominantly affecting children, characterized by episodic severe abdominal pain. This condition, while uncommon, can also manifest in adults, impacting their quality of life.

What is an abdominal migraine?

Abdominal migraine involves recurrent, acute abdominal pain with features like anorexia, nausea, vomiting, and pallor (Monteferrante et al., 2021; Azmy & Qualia, 2020). It affects 0.2% to 4.1% of children and is more common in those who have relatives with migraines (Stephanie Watson, 2017).

Key characteristics of abdominal migraine

  • Prevalence: Affects 0.2% to 4.1% of children, occasionally observed in
  • Symptoms: Includes abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, pallor, and appetite
  • Duration: Migraine attacks can last from one hour up to three days.

Symptoms and diagnosis

The primary symptom is pain around the belly button, varying from moderate to severe. Associated symptoms include nausea, vomiting, appetite loss, and pale skin. Episodes last from one hour to three days, with symptom-free intervals (Stephanie Watson, 2017).

Treatment approaches

  • Nonpharmacologic methods: Focus on lifestyle modifications and avoiding triggers.
  • Medication: Includes analgesics, antiemetics, and in some cases, prophylactic migraine therapies.
  • Monitoring: Keeping a symptom diary can be helpful in managing the condition.

Causes and triggers

While the exact causes are unknown, it may share risk factors with migraine headaches, potentially stemming from brain-GI tract connections. Common triggers include stress, certain food chemicals, and exhaustion.

Common triggers

  • Genetic factors: More common in children with a family history of migraines.
  • Dietary triggers: Certain foods and additives can trigger attacks.
  • Emotional stress: Emotional changes can lead to the release of chemicals that set off migraine symptoms.

Abdominal migraines in adults

Though traditionally considered a pediatric condition, abdominal migraines can occur in adults, often overlooked in differential diagnoses of abdominal pain (Wang et al., 2014; Roberts & deShazo, 2012).

Management and treatment

Treatment focuses on prevention, typically involving nonpharmacologic approaches and, occasionally, pharmacologic treatments like analgesics and antiemetics (Azmy & Qualia, 2020). For adults, prophylactic therapies have shown effectiveness (Woodruff et al., 2013).


Understanding abdominal migraines is crucial for effective management, especially in children. If recurrent abdominal pain is present, particularly with family history of migraines, consider consulting a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment plan.

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