It’s normal to feel weak or even fatigued at times. But when it happens too often, there may be a greater issue at hand.
If your child is constantly complaining about feeling weakness or fatigue, it’s best not to shrug it off as a minor issue. Listen to their concerns and evaluate the seriousness of the condition.
To help you with this, we’ve created a brief guide on the different types and causes of weakness and fatigue in children. We also included some actions you may take regarding your child’s condition.
What Are Weakness and Fatigue?
First, we need to define what weakness and fatigue actually are. Medically speaking, feelings of weakness relate to decreased muscle strength. On the other hand, fatigue would mean normal muscle strength but still feeling very tired or needing extra rest.
A child is experiencing true weakness when there is an interference in function. For example, weakness can be felt in the legs when the child is standing or walking, making it more difficult to execute the action. This is because muscle strength is needed to walk normally.
The example above indicates leg weakness. But weakness can also be felt in different parts of the body. When a child experiences arm weakness, they may have trouble feeding themselves, lifting objects over their heads, writing, combing their hair, buttoning their shirts, or turning doorknobs. And in more severe cases, the child may constantly drop things they are holding.
A child could also experience facial weakness. This can be observed in droopy eyes or crooked smiles. The child may also have trouble moving their eyes, swallowing food, or speaking.
Possible Causes of New-Onset Muscle Weakness
There can be many causes of new-onset muscle weakness, most of them being quite serious. When a child is experiencing true muscle weakness, the cause may be due to diseases in the spinal cord or nerves. However, these diseases are quite rare, so special tests need to be conducted to get the right diagnosis.
One possible cause of true muscle weakness may be polio, a severe spinal cord disease resulting in paralysis. However, since polio can be prevented by a vaccine administered earlier on, it is quite rare to happen these days. But there is another disease called Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) that acts quite similar to polio. Although still rare, cases have risen since 2014.
Guillain-Barre syndrome is also a possible cause. In this condition, the weakness starts at the feet and moves upward over several days. Another possible cause is tick paralysis, which is also quite rare. This happens when a tick attaches itself to the child for five or more days. But once the tick is removed, the weakness will clear out.
What to Do When Your Child Is Experiencing Weakness and Fatigue
If your child looks or acts sick or walks unsteadily, it’s best to see a doctor get a diagnosis. However, if the weakness or fatigue came after a head or neck injury, you should call 911 immediately. 911 should also be called when the child is awake but cannot move. In some cases, the child could also be difficult to wake up or keep awake. And if they have trouble breathing along with their weakness, that is more reason to call 911.
Weakness is often a result of decreased muscle strength. It can happen in any part of the body, from the legs to the arms to the face. And when there is a true weakness that interferes with function, the child may have a disease of the spinal cord or nerves. If you see your child experiencing leg, arm, or facial weakness, it’s best to see a doctor for further help. However, if the child cannot move, stay awake, or breathe properly, you should contact 911 immediately.
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