Abdominal migraines are not headaches. They cause stomachache and often occur as a reaction to the same triggers as migraine headaches. Abdominal migraines are painful and cause nausea, cramps, and often vomiting.

Abdominal migraines tend to run in families. About 2 in 100 children experience abdominal migraines; they are rare in adults. More girls get them than boys. Kids who have abdominal migraines typically get migraine headaches when they get older.

The exact cause of abdominal migraines is unknown. One theory points to changes in the levels of two compounds the body makes, histamine and serotonin, as the culprits. Experts think that being upset or worried can affect their levels.

Foods such as chocolate, Chinese food with monosodium glutamate (MSG), and processed meats with nitrites might trigger abdominal migraines.

Swallowing a lot of air may also trigger them or set off similar stomach symptoms. It can cause bloating and trouble eating.

It will hurt in the center of your child’s body or around their belly button (not their sides), what doctors call midline abdominal pain. Your child could also:

  • Feel queasy or throw up
  • Be pale or flushed
  • Yawn, be drowsy, or have little energy
  • Lose their appetite or be unable to eat
  • Have dark shadows under their eyes

Abdominal migraines are often sudden and quite severe. They can hit without any warning signs. The pain may go away after an hour, or it may last as long as 3 days.


Diagnosing abdominal migraines can be hard because kids have trouble telling the difference between an abdominal migraine and ordinary stomachaches, stomach flu, or other problems with their belly and guts.

Because abdominal migraines tend to run in families, the doctor will ask about relatives who have migraine headaches.

The doctor will try to rule out other causes for stomach pain. He or she will see how closely your child’s symptoms match a specific list that migraine experts have come up with.



Because not much is known about abdominal migraines, doctors may treat them like other migraines. But they usually don’t prescribe drugs unless the symptoms are very bad or happen a lot.

Medications like rizatriptan and sumatriptan, called triptans, haven’t been approved for children, though older kids may have luck taking sumatriptan as a nasal spray.

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