HeadWise HeadWise: Volume 2, Issue 2 - Page 22

invisible wounds By Kelly Rehan The Toll Stress Takes on Military Children A parent’s deployment can induce worry, fear—and headache—among children. CHILD WHO WATCHES a parent (or both parents) leave for military deployment shoulders a heavy burden. When family dynamics shift in such a significant way, the child may experience chronic headaches or migraine—and this, pediatric neurologists say, is a reflection of the psychological trauma they experience when a loved one is away in a potentially dangerous situation. Headaches are common in the pediatric population, and not just for children of military servicemen and A women. In general, migraine incidence in children increases with age, from a few percent among young kids to 10 to 23 percent among high schoolers, according to Commander Michael J. Strunc, MD, child neurologist and sleep physician at the U.S. Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. Incidence is nearly equal among boys and girls prior to puberty, with a significant increase in girls as you move into adolescence, he says. “As far as incidence of migraine, the numbers are the same for kids in the military as those not in the military,” Dr. Strunc says. “What is different is what may trigger the migraine. There are some triggers that are unique, or more often present, in a military situation.” THE POWER OF STRESS One trigger is the upheaval of moving, a routine event in the lives of many military families. “Military kids have the excitement of moving every three to four years, on average,” Dr. Strunc says. “They may move in first grade after making friends, then move in fourth grade and then in high school. And high schoolers, in particular, get a lot of stress from geographic moves because they’ve started forming stronger friendship bonds.” In addition to moving, there’s the stress, fear, anxiety and worry that children experience when they say goodbye to a parent who is being deployed. And all too often, kids keep their emotions hidden, which only exacerbates their head pain and the co-morbidities that often accompany headaches, including somatic 20 HEAD WISE | Volume 2, Issue 2 • 2012