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How to handle headaches during the holidays

26 December 2015, 11:32

Headaches are often unavoidable and it's so much worse when they occur during the holidays.

Children with migraines often cannot participate in the family fun, and land up getting depressed, sad and withdrawn.

It is sometimes very difficult for them to express what they are going through so their families may find them moody, difficult and needy.

Dr Elliot Shevel, South African Migraine Surgery Pioneer and Medical Director of The Headache Clinic says that, “some children feel misunderstood and become isolated because they are not always taken seriously when they speak about their headaches.

In other cases, many parents are concerned about the health impacts of giving their children chronic medication to take for their headaches or migraines.”

Through his groundbreaking medical research, Dr Shevel has pioneered breakthrough Migraine Surgery which is minimally invasive and has successfully treated many headaches sufferers including children from as young as 11 years old.

Chanel Kilpady, now age 12, visited South Africa from Melbourne, Australia, to visit the Headache Clinic in Johannesburg, and said she had to give up all her hobbies and missed weeks of school at a time because of the debilitating headaches they triggered.

“I did ice skating but I had to stop that because I got headaches. The medicine helped a little bit and then it wore off. I missed lots of days of school. I didn’t do swimming because the chlorine would make me get a headache, so I used to just sit and watch. I felt like I wasn’t part of it. I got frustrated and angry. I was sad a lot.”

It can also become a great challenge for parents to cater to the needs of all their children, especially if one suffers with chronic headaches and migraines.

In some cases the condition of the child in pain eclipses the needs of their other children, resulting in jealousy or resentment. Yet in other families the children with migraine may not get the care they need because their headaches are not taken seriously.

Through a multi-disciplinary diagnostic approach, The Headache Clinic often learns that the children they treat have previously been told by their doctors or family members that their pain is all in their minds.

“This leaves the child feeling very alone, confused and guilty for ‘imagining’ their pain” says Dr Shevel.

Chanel Kilpady, however is now able to participate again in the activities she had been forced to miss, “(after having treatment).

"I haven’t had any big headaches since. I can do more stuff and get involved. I’ve been to Katy Perry concert. that was good. I like how she sings and her style. I also went to see One Direction and I’m doing dancing again. I tried out for the school production and I can go swimming.”

Parents often suffer in silence

There is unfortunately another side to the family headache reality which affects a greater percentage of families, and that is the quiet suffering of parents afflicted with headaches. Often their relationships with their families are put under constant strain due to their attacks and their impaired ability to cope with everyday life.

Many headache and migraine sufferers prefer to be left lying alone in a cool dark quiet room, and often feel extremely tired, antisocial and irritable.

So school holiday time can be even more overwhelming with the added pressure of entertaining kids who are home for the school holidays, while managing their households, and end of year work deadlines.

Feelings of guilt and depression can take parents down an emotional spiral, that when combined with debilitating pain often affects their relationships with their families and spouses, sometimes beyond repair.

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- Health24


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