How migraine can affect pupils at school

32 days Children with migraine take on average between 32 days and three months off from school due to their migraine compared to the general population who take between three and 13 days off per year

25,000,000 It is estimated that the UK population loses 25 million days from work or school each year because of migraine

The ways that they can be affected

Migraine can have a negative impact on the lives of children who have migraine attacks, and can particularly affect their education.

This is because there are factors involved in going to school and learning that can trigger migraine attacks and exacerbate a child’s migraine. These factors include the school environment, school policies and practices, and the nature of learning itself.

They will also affect children differently depending on their migraine triggers, patterns of migraine attacks, and the individual circumstances of the child.

Here is an overview of the main ways that school and education can affect a child’s migraine.

The school environment

Many migraine attack triggers are environmental. A very warm or dry airless classroom can cause dehydration which is a common trigger. While some children may be sensitive to lights in the classroom.

Access to food and water

Hunger and dehydration can trigger migraine attacks and a child with migraine needs to eat and drink more frequently than formal school break times allow in order to avoid migraine attacks.

Stress and exam pressures

Stress is a significant migraine trigger and the pressure of tests and exams can lead to an increase in a child’s migraine attacks. It also means that the attacks often occur at the worst possible time for a child undertaking exams, either just before or during an exam.


Acute migraine medication needs to be taken at the start of a migraine attack to be most effective. A child at school not having access to that medication, or even if there is a delay in them accessing it, can lead to significant and prolonged pain for them.

Sickness policies

Children with migraine often take an above average time off from school due to their migraine compared to the general population. This is often because a child will need to go home during a migraine attack or afterwards when recovering from one. However, not all children will need to go home during or after a migraine attack and lying down in a quiet and dark room for an hour will be enough to help them deal with the migraine attack.

Many school sickness policies often require for a child to go home and to spend several days at home if they vomit due to their migraine attack. The child may not need this to recover from their attack and it might unnecessarily add their to time off from school. Migraine is not contagious so other children and adults won’t catch it from a child if they have a migraine attack.

“I missed a lot of school last year because of my migraines and I couldn’t do the things I enjoy such as football and dancing and that made me sad.”

Joel, who has migraine

Overall impact on the child with migraine

The main impact of migraine in a child’s education is school absence. This can not only affect their learning but can have a knock-on effect on their confidence, happiness and friendships. It is therefore why all of the factors that can affect a child’s migraine at school should be considered and alleviated as much as possible.

You can find out how to help a child with migraine at school here.