HealthDay News — According to a study presented at the annual American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference in Houston, children are much more likely than adults to have a headache before an ischemic stroke.

The current study included 355 pediatric ischemic stroke patients. The children in the study were as young as less than 1 month of age, up until 18 years. 

Headache incidence records were based on physician and patient reports of headache. 

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No information on headache onset, length, and treatment was available. Forty-six percent of the children over age 3 when they had a stroke said they’d had a headache before the stroke. In children under 3, 6% reported a headache before their stroke. 

The study team noted that among those over the age of 3 when they had a stroke, half also had a headache whether or not their stroke was related to artery abnormalities. However, among those with an artery abnormality the rate of headache before stroke rose to 7 in 10 patients. 

The rate of headache was lower in children whose stroke was related to blood vessel wall inflammation following a pre-stroke infection, cancer, or serious medical condition. Roughly four in 10 of such children (43%) experienced a headache leading up to their stroke.

“Stroke should be considered as a possible diagnosis in any child with a headache and additional symptoms of weakness or numbness in the face, arm, or leg, or changes in walking, talking, or vision,” study author Lori Billinghurst, MD, a clinical assistant professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said in an American Stroke Association news release. “Urgent brain imaging may be required to distinguish a migraine with aura from a stroke.”


Headache Far More Common Stroke Symptom in Children Than Adults [press release]. Houston, TX: American Heart Association; February 22, 2017.

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