A new study suggests the intense dislike of pungent smells and odors could be a diagnostic marker for migraines among children and young adults. Migraines are recurring headaches that last anywhere from hours to days. Around 8-15 percent of high-school-aged children experience migraines, although diagnosing migraines in young children and adolescents remains challenging for physicians.
Researchers found that osmophobia (the fear of odors) could help neurologists differentiate between migraines and headaches in youth. This phenomenon was previously found to be more common in adults with migraines一95 percent of migraine patients report that smell sensitivity triggers or worsens attacks.
The exact cause of migraines is still unknown, although smoking, stress, and genetic factors have all been linked as potential triggers. As children, boys are more likely to get migraines than girls, but as teens, young women are about three times more likely to experience migraines than men. Diagnosing migraines earlier can help children and teens start lifestyle changes or clinical interventions to manage their condition.
In the study, researchers tracked symptoms experienced by a cohort of 81 children with suspected migraines. They used current diagnostic markers, including nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, as well as osmophobia. These led to a migraine diagnosis in 6 of the children.
[W]e believe that the inclusion of osmophobia in the diagnostic criteria for migraine is useful for diagnosing migraine among children and adolescents,” wrote the authors.