Children with migraine tend to perform less well in school than their peers, according to a new study from Brazil.

In 87 Brazilian cities, researchers evaluated nearly 5,700 children between ages 5 and 12 by collecting information from the students’ teachers and parents. Results indicated that 9% of the children experienced episodic migraine (migraine less than 14 days per month), nearly 18% experienced probable migraine and less than 1% experienced chronic migraine (migraine 15 or more days per month).

Students with both episodic and chronic migraine performed less well in school than their peers without headache. In fact, those with migraine were 30 percent more likely than their healthy peers to perform below average in school. Migraine’s severity, frequency and duration also correlated with poor academic performance, as did abnormal mental health scores and the use of analgesics.

Findings from the study underline the importance of this issue and obtaining appropriate medical treatment, as better school performance in the early years has been linked to better high school and college performance, which in turn may lead to more opportunities later in life.

“With approximately one-fourth of school-age children having headaches with migraine features, this is a serious problem, especially for those with frequent, severe attacks that do not subside quickly,” said one of the researchers, Marcelo Bigal, M.D., Ph.D., a neurologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, NY. “Parents and teachers need to take these headaches seriously and make sure children get appropriate medical attention and treatment.”

Lead author of the study was Marco Arruda, M.D., Ph.D., of the Glia Institute in Brazil, Merck and Co. and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. The study appeared in a recent issue of Neurology.