Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Children who suffer from frequent or severe headaches are more than twice as likely to miss school and to perform poorly than their peers, according to a study published Monday by JAMA Pediatrics.
They may also have up to a 60% higher risk for needing to repeat a grade compared to children who don't experience headaches, the data showed.
"Headache disorders are a common source of disability, not only for adults, but also for children and adolescents," study co-author Scott Turner told UPI.
About 17% of children, adolescents and teens in the United States between age 4 and 18 experience some form of headache, including severe headaches and migraines, previous research suggests.
Children who have headaches report frequent school absences, poorer school performance and lower quality of life than those with other chronic conditions, according to Turner, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, and his colleagues.
About 10% of children experience migraine headaches, a "neurological condition characterized not only by headache attacks, but also increased sensitivity to lights and sounds, nausea or vomiting and sometimes difficulty seeing, speaking or moving part of the body," Turner said.
For the new study, researchers reviewed data on health and school performance for more than 34,000 children age 5 to 15, just over 1,500 of whom had parent-reported headache disorders.
Poor attendance was defined as missing 11 or more school days over the course of a year, the researchers said.
Parents of children participating in the research were also asked how many times they or another adult in their household had been contacted by their child's school about any academic problems in the previous 12 months.
Compared with children without headaches, children with headaches were 2.7 times more likely to experience poor school attendance and 1.6 times more likely to have problems at school related to academic performance , the data showed.
In addition, 8% of children with headaches repeated a grade, compared to 5% of those without headaches, the researches said.
"Migraine in children tends to be under-recognized and under-diagnosed, as children often struggle to understand and communicate their symptoms effectively," Turner said.
However, "early diagnosis and treatment may prevent future disability," he said.