The University of Maryland Children's Hospital is home to one of the first pediatric headache clinics in the United States. When it opened in 1989, The UMMC Pediatric Headache Clinic was only the second clinic in the United States exclusively dedicated to headache problems in children, and it remains one of the only clinics in the mid-Atlantic region.

Patients from the mid-Atlantic states and beyond come to the clinic for evaluation and treatment, which gives patients and families the tools to help cope with and treat headaches in children and adolescents.

Jack Gladstein, MD, director of the Pediatric Headache Clinic, sees patients ranging in age from 3 to 18. These children experience a range of headache pain, including migraines, chronic daily headaches and headache complications from other conditions like inflammatory bowel disease and abdominal pain. Dr. Gladstein is also an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He participates in clinical research along with other pediatric headache specialists.

Patients are often referred to the UMCH's Pediatric Headache Clinic by their primary care physicians. When a child or adolescent comes to the clinic, they meet with Dr. Gladstein. He takes a thorough "headache history," performs a physical examination and assesses the best treatment options. Those options range from medications to relaxation techniques.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are migraines?

Migraines are episodic headaches with periods of normalcy in between. The headache can be with or without visual warning signs. There often is nausea or vomiting, light and sound sensitivity and a need to rest. During a migraine attack a child or teenager cannot read or exercise. There is often a close family member with episodic headaches.

Do children get migraines?

Yes, up to 3% of youngsters get migraines. There are two peaks in childhood: age 6 (first grade) and age 12.

How is a migraine treated?

Prevention is best. People with a tendency toward migraines need to protect themselves. Steps include:

  • Eating breakfast every day.
  • Getting enough sleep and keeping it regular
  • Drinking enough fluids
  • Exercising regularly (sweat for 30 minutes at least 3 times a week)
  • Dealing effectively with stress

Treat attacks early. Don’t wait until headache is terrible. Initiate medication at school or at home at first twinge. Medications include over-the-counter preparations or prescription medications.

If the youngster shows disability as measured by days of school missed or a drop in grades for school absence, more aggressive measures may need to be employed. These may include biofeedback, relaxation exercises, daily vitamins and herbs and/or medications to be take daily.

What if my child gets daily headaches?

These are not migraines, and need to be investigated further. Once serious pathology is ruled out with an MRI, a comprehensive plan needs to me made to investigate the causes and the treatment for the daily headaches. Principles include:

  • Healthy habits

  • Returning to school

  • Maintaining friendships and family obligations

  • Careful use of prevention techniques and medications

  • Collaboration with school to assure best outcome and flexibility

What happens during an initial visit?

During the initial visit, you (your child) will be seen by a physician who is board certified in Headache, who will take your child’s history, perform a physical examination, and then come up with a plan of action along with the family. A letter will be generated for the primary care physician, who can be included in the treatment should (s)he wish to be. Goals of treatment are to alleviate headaches, decrease morbidity and get the youngster back to a fully functioning state.