Drug treatment of migraine in children: a comparative review

Paediatr Drugs. Jan-Mar 1999;1(1):7-18. doi: 10.2165/00128072-199901010-00002.


Migraine according to the criteria of the International Headache Society, occurs in about 3 to 7% of all children. Despite this high incidence, and unlike the situation with adult migraine, only a very few controlled trials have investigated the acute and prophylactic treatment of migraine in children. In the acute migraine attack, ibuprofen 10 mg/kg and paracetamol (acetaminophen) 15 mg/kg have been shown to be effective, with only a few adverse effects. In severe migraine attacks, dihydroergotamine mesylate (dihydroergotamine) administered orally (20 to 40 microg/kg) or intravenously (maximum 1 mg/day) may be helpful, but there have been no large placebo-controlled trials of this treatment. Oral sumatriptan has not been effective in several double-blind and placebo-controlled trials; administered subcutaneously, this drug might be helpful but the only data for this application come from open trials. For migraine prophylaxis, only flunarizine 5 mg/day has been shown to be effective in more than 1 double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Some evidence also exists that propranolol >60 mg/day and pizotifen 0.5 to 1.5 mg/day are effective; however, the results from different trials are contradictory. For all other drugs studied in migraine prophylaxis, the results remain vague (e.g. amitriptyline, nimodipine, trazodone) or suggest inefficacy (e.g. timolol, clonidine, tryptophan). In migraine-related disorders, pizotifen 0.5 to 0.75 mg/day for abdominal migraine and flunarizine 10 to 25 mg/day for alternating hemiplegia have been shown to be effective. Most of the drugs used in the treatment of migraine in children are well tolerated and without relevant adverse effects. In migraine prophylaxis, the most common adverse effects are drowsiness and bodyweight gain.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Humans
  • Migraine Disorders / diagnosis
  • Migraine Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Migraine Disorders / prevention & control