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Migraines Special Needs Factsheet

What Teachers Should Know

Migraines are recurring headaches that cause intense pain and other symptoms, which may include nausea; vomiting; abdominal pain; and sensitivity to light, sound, or odors. Migraines can be debilitating and last hours to several days.

Migraine triggers include stress, menstruation, skipping meals, lack of sleep, dehydration, smoke, weather changes, caffeine, and certain foods.

Sensory warning signs, called auras, sometimes signal that a migraine is coming on. Most auras are visual, such as flashing lights, zig-zag lines, or blind spots.

Students with migraines may need to:

  • miss school and other activities until they feel better
  • go to the nurse to take medication or lie down in a quiet, dark place until symptoms ease
  • carry a water bottle to stay hydrated
  • take frequent breaks from classroom activities that trigger migraines, such as working on a computer
  • keep a headache diary to monitor triggers and how often headaches occur

Before age 10, an equal number of boys and girls get migraines. But after age 12, migraines affect girls three times more often than boys.

What Teachers Can Do

Students with migraines may be absent or miss class time due to headaches or doctor visits. Your students with migraines may need special consideration regarding missed instruction, assignments, and testing. Teachers should keep in mind that stressful situations, including tests and exams, can trigger migraines for some students.

While migraines can be disabling, most can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes. The best treatment is encouraging students to avoid migraine triggers and have a plan in place in case migraines occur in school.

Because migraines are different for different people, you may want to encourage your student to keep a headache diary and get to know what provokes migraines in class. The more you and your student understand headache triggers, the better prepared you can be to prevent them.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013