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There are many triggers for migraines and everyone’s migraine triggers are different.  Below are some of the more common triggers that cause migraines in people. Keeping track of triggers can help to avoid migraines.


Getting too much or too little sleep can be a trigger. Most migraines seem to happen between 4 am and 9 am and sleep may be to blame for this.





Overall diet seems to be less of a trigger in children than in adults with migraine but there are some foods and some food ingredients that do tend to cause migraines.

  • Tyramine - which is in cultured dairy products (sour cream, buttermilk, aged cheese), chocolate, and citrus fruits.  

  • Caffeine – such as in beverages like coffee, tea, cola and even cocoa

  • Nitrates and nitrites – generally in preserved meats.

  • MSG (monosodium glutamate) – in foods such as prepackaged seasons, bacon bits, baking mixtures, basted turkey, bouillon cubes, chips, crotons, dry roasted peanuts, breaded foods, frozen dinners, gelatins, Asian foods and soy sauce, potpies, relishes, salad dressing, soups and yeast extract.

  • Alcohol – although not generally an issue in children. Teens should be aware that alcohol could cause migraine headaches.





Many girls experience their first migraine around the time of their first period. Many women have menstruation-linked migraines and get migraines during or around their monthly cycles.  Hormone level changes, particularly changes in estrogen, are likely to blame for this.





Some medications can be a trigger for migraines.

  • Cimetidine

  • Estrogen

  • Histamine

  • Hydralazine

  • Nifedipine

  • Nitroglycerin

  • Ranitidine

  • Reserpine





Migraines may be triggered by dehydration. Staying properly hydrated can be important for children with migraines. One option would be to carry a water bottle around during school to avoid dehydration.  





Stress, anxiety, depression, worry and fatigue can all trigger a migraine headache.  Managing daily stress can be a helpful tool to help reduce migraines.




Physiological triggers

Physiological triggers are automatic reactions to our environment.

  • Ice cream or cold foods

  • Fluorescent light

  • Bright light

  • Flickering light

  • Barometric pressure changes

  • High altitude

  • Strong odours

  • Computer screens

  • Rapid temperature changes

  • Car or air travel in small kids




List of triggers adapted from Medscape and a Pediatric Migraine Review Article



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