Children whose parents have migraine are more likely to have attacks themselves. Here's how Sarah Rathsack fights back.
Research suggests that migraine attacks run in families – there’s an estimated 50 to 75 percent chance you’ll have migraine if one or both of your parents have the condition.
I’m one of those people. Both of my grandmothers and my mom experienced migraine attacks. I now have school-aged children of my own, and I worry about whether they’ll have migraine, too.
Fighting nature is impossible. I don’t know what I inherited from my parents. And I don’t know what my partner and I passed down to our children.
The best I can do is set a good example and teach my children how to:
- live preventively
- recognize the symptoms of migraine
- fight to raise awareness about the condition
Here’s how I try to protect my children from potential migraine attacks in the future.
A history of migraine attacks
I grew up having migraine attacks but wasn’t diagnosed until I was in my teens.
We always knew. My mother had migraine as did both of my grandmothers. I remember they laid on the couch beside a garbage can with wet washcloths over their eyes. That same cold cloth was used on me when I experienced a migraine. I threw up in that bucket many times.
Some days it felt good to have my hair brushed. My mom massaged my head for as long as I needed. I learned very early on that I needed help!
My mother and grandmothers had little medication they could take for relief. I found that medications could help my symptoms but usually came with a variety of side effects that weren’t entirely helpful.
Having kids took its toll on chronic migraine. I spent way too much energy on others and took too little time for self-care as a new mom. I hid my pain as my children began to speak and observe the world.
I began treating migraine differently as my children got older.
Protecting my children from migraine
I sometimes worry that I passed the migraine beast on to my children. I know there isn’t much I can do. But I hope I can fight for a better future.
Here are a few more ways I’m helping to prepare and protect my children from migraine attacks:
I advocate for more research
I’m a migraine advocate. I raise money for migraine studies and grants to help encourage doctors to find answers.
I’ve seen migraine research and migraine medication make huge leaps forward in the past few years. I hope that many more options are soon to come.
I scope out doctors
I spent years going to doctors with my complex migraine history and found that they’re not all as up to date on the latest migraine research as I am.
I want my children’s doctors to be comfortable treating migraine. When I was pregnant, I interviewed future pediatricians. One of my standard questions was, “What will you do if I come to you with a child with migraine?”
I loop in teachers
As my kids entered preschool, I told their teachers that I take all head injuries and complaints of headaches or stomachaches very seriously. I want to be notified.
I encourage my kids to talk to me
I had my first migraine when I was 5 years old. I’ve watched my children like a hawk for symptoms or signs of migraine. I want them to tell me exactly how they’re feeling.
I also want them to understand that a migraine is not a person’s fault or choice. We are all sick sometimes and need help.
I include them in my journey
My children are still young and in elementary school. We speak about migraine and how I live with it. It’s part of our lives.
I teach my kids that migraine is a disease. Sharing how it affects me empowers them.
I document my life on my blog and show it to them. They watch me go to migraine events. I hope that this teaches them that we’re not alone in the fight against migraine.
My advocacy has grown as they have. I’m on a quest to help generations suffering from migraine disease and headache disorders.
I tell them how to help me
My kids want to help me. They now know how.
They turn off the lights, talk more quietly, and grab some ice or water when I have a migraine. These are tricks they’ll know to use if they ever experience migraine attacks.
I value self-care
I speak with my kids about how important it is to take care of ourselves and value our health. We do so in our everyday life by:
All of these are essential lifestyle behaviors that hopefully give my children good building blocks to health despite their genetics.
Hope for the future
I’d prefer that my children never have to face the darkness of migraine. I hope they have perfect health and happiness.
I know I’m making a difference for us all by working toward lowering stigma, increasing research, and building community.
The future for migraine is unknown. I dream of a day when there’s a cure and our worries for future generations disappear.
The information presented is solely for educational purposes, not as specific advice for the evaluation, management, or treatment of any condition.
NPS-US-NP-00588 FEB 2020