Q: In the days before her period, my 13-year-old has headaches, cramps and bloating, and is just not herself. I have given her ibuprofen for the discomfort, but is there anything else that will help her?
A: It sounds like your daughter is experiencing some of the signs of premenstrual syndrome. To help the doctor make the diagnosis, keep a menstrual calendar: For it to be PMS, symptoms must occur during a specific menstrual phase and over several menstrual cycles. It’s important to note if the symptoms interfere with her normal functioning. Make sure your daughter knows that this is not “all in her head,” that there are treatments and the goal is for her to keep doing all her usual things. No single approach works for every teen, but education about cause is essential. Exercise and dealing with stress help. There is some evidence that calcium and vitamin B supplements reduce symptoms. Many of our grandmas may talk about the usefulness of aloe, primrose oil and Midol. These have been around a long time, but I could not find any detailed studies on their effectiveness. There are proven hormone and medical treatments, but unless your daughter is experiencing severe problems, I would try some of the above suggestions first. For more information for both teens and parents, search “menstruation” on kidshealth.org.