Favorite

Joe Elser: Pediatrician 

Treating headache in children

click to enlarge PEDIATRICIAN: Joe Elser.
  • PEDIATRICIAN: Joe Elser.

When a baby holds its head in its hands and cries until it falls asleep and then wakes up happy again, its mother may know right away what's happening.

It's migraine, and it's genetic — which is why moms, sufferers themselves, may rightly suspect the cause of their infants' distress.

Dr. Joe Elser — who, as it happens, also has migraine headaches — sees about 900 new patients every year in Arkansas Children's Hospital's migraine clinic, a clinic he started in 1987. He's seen thousands of pediatric migraine sufferers over the years — experience few other physicians have.

Headache is common in children; the Migraine Research Foundation says 10 percent of school-aged kids suffer from migraine. “I'm convinced that a 2-month-old with colic has migraine,” he said — though he laughingly added that his colleagues say that with him, everything is migraine.

“I can do things for these kids,” Elser said, thanks to triptan medications, a revolution in the treatment of migraine. For children who have weekly headaches, he treats with daily prophylactic drugs, including the anti-seizure med Topomax, the tricyclic antidepressants Elavil and the calcium channel blocker Verapamil. The drug Imitrex is safe to use in children as young as 18 months. Elser is currently participating in a study of triptans to compare how quickly they alleviate the pain.

Though the cause of their pain is DNA deep, there are ways a child can keep from triggering a headache, Elser says. If allergies are a trigger, they need to get their allergies under control. They need to make sure they're getting good sleep (too much can cause headache), exercise smartly (dehydration is a trigger) and avoid foods that experience tells them will bring on the pain. Elser says teen-agers can benefit from learning stress management techniques; psychologists in the headache clinic work with teens on ways to relax. They do not need to have their vision checked, a common myth about headaches, Elser said.

A native of Hot Springs, where he was in a Medical Explorers Boy Scout post, Elser sees kids from birth to age 21 in the General Pediatric Clinic. He realized during a stint at Children's during his senior year at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences that he liked working with children. “Kids are special,” Elser said. “They rarely do things to themselves” that send them to the doctor. “Most sick kids get better,” he added. “You see terrible things,” he acknowledged, “but the good outweighs the bad.”

It's also a specialty in which Elser doesn't have to wear a white coat. He believes the physician uniform intimidates children, so he dresses in casual clothes, a habit that the chancellor once said he couldn't understand, Elser said. “If you had on you what we have on us,” Elser said he told the chancellor, he'd see the wisdom in the polo shirts.

Elser, who also teaches and does hospitalist duty at Children's, said that nearly one in four children he sees at Children's is Hispanic. They now know — though they didn't at first — that they can come to Children's and not be grilled about whether they are legal. And thanks to the state's funding of insurance programs like ArKids First and Medicaid, Elser said, most children who come to Children's are insured. When the state passed a soda pop tax in 1992 to bolster Medicaid, Children's was “able to take care of kids like never before,” Elser said.

Not only does Elser have migraines, he's simpatico with kids for another reason: He and his wife, Angie, have six, ranging in age from 5 to 18.

 

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Leslie Newell Peacock

Readers also liked…

  • The two faces of Mike Huckabee

    Medicaid expander, Obamacare opponent. Man from Hope, mansion in Florida. Child health proponent, Duggar apologist.
    • Jun 4, 2015
  • The ballad of Fred and Yoko

    How one of the world's foremost Beatles collectors died homeless on the streets of Little Rock.
    • Mar 31, 2016
  • Separate and unequal

    Sue Cowan Morris won the battle to equalize pay of black and white teachers. It cost her her job.
    • Jun 11, 2015

Most Shared

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders to be deputy White House press secretary

    Donald Trump announced additional White House staff today, notably including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy assistant to the president and principal deputy press secretary.
  • Legislation filed for $10 million school voucher program

    The legislation to vastly expand transfer of state tax dollars to private schools came before the school choice day event I mentioned earlier.
  • Watch the trailer for 'Shelter,' the Renaud Bros. new doc on homeless kids in New Orleans

    Check out the trailer for "Shelter," the Renaud Bros. new feature-length documentary about homeless teens navigating life on the streets of New Orleans with the help of Covenant House, the longstanding French Quarter shelter for homeless kids.
  • Trumpeting

    When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.
  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?

Latest in Cover Stories

  • Plant of the year

    The legalization of medical marijuana was Arkansas's most significant news of 2016.
    • Jan 19, 2017
  • Profile of a plant

    What science does and doesn't tell us about the health benefits of cannabis.
    • Jan 19, 2017
  • Other lights

    Honorable mentions for 2016 Arkansan of the Year, with plenty of solid contenders for the crown.
    • Jan 19, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Jack Pearadin and Doug Nelsen found a 1.73-carat diamond after nearly a year of searching the park's field.

Event Calendar

« »

January

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation