Children with migraine are more likely to have had colic during infancy than their peers who do not experience the painful headache disorder, according to a new European study. This finding adds to research indicating that mothers with migraine are more likely to have babies with colic.

Researchers in the study, published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at the records of more than 700 children between ages 6 to 18 who had been admitted to hospital emergency rooms in Italy and France; 208 of them had severe migraine. In all, 73% of children admitted with migraine experienced colic as an infant and were nearly seven times more likely to have migraine than children who did not have colic.

The colic-migraine connection held true for both migraine with aura and migraine without aura, but did not hold true for tension-type headache. Researchers say that while the fact of the association seems clear, they have much more to learn. Senior author Luigi Titomanlio, MD, head of the pediatric migraine and neurovascular diseases clinic at APHP Hospital Robert Debre in Paris, France, suggested that it could be that nerve terminals in the brain and gut may be overly sensitized, leading to pain in both areas.

“Our results suggest that infantile colic could represent a form of migraine with age-specific expression,” he said.

In an accompanying journal editorial, Dr. Phyllis Zee wrote that both colic and migraine might have their roots in disrupted sleep cycles and the disruption of melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep and regulates the body’s internal time clock.

“Sleep and circadian rhythm disruptions may be a prominent trigger in colic and in migraine,” she said.

Parents can address this possibility without medications, she said, and ensure their children get plenty of light during the day and not much light at night.

Researchers suggest longitudinal studies on the colic-migraine connection.

Watch this episode of Heads UP to learn more about childhood syndromes and migraine disease.