Children and Young People’s Emergency Department
This leaflet gives you general information about the management of children who are limping. Having assessed your child we feel that it is safe for you to go home.
Why is my child limping?
We see many children because they have developed a limp (and/or pain somewhere in the affected leg). Most of these children will have an ‘irritable hip’ (see below) or another condition which does not usually need tests to diagnose it. These conditions will get better on their own without hospital treatment.
There are some other more serious causes of a limp such as joint or bone infection which do need hospital treatment. The Doctor will have ruled out these more serious causes by taking a history and examining your child carefully. Sometimes, an x-ray or blood tests will have been taken.
What is an irritable hip?
Irritable hip (or transient synovitis) is the commonest cause of limp in childhood. It is due
to inflammation (not infection) of the hip joint. The exact cause is not known but it often happens after a viral illness or an injury.
Your child may complain of pain in the hip, groin, thigh or knee and may have difficulty walking or crawling. Usually only one side is affected. It is generally a mild condition which gets better on its own after one or two weeks.
Does my child need to be seen again?
We would like to see your child within 2 to 3 days to make sure everything is settling. If your child is unwell or not improving the doctor may request some tests (x-rays or blood tests) and involve some other teams in the hospital. If your child is improving they will be discharged.
When to seek urgent medical advice
Return to Emergency Department immediately (before your review date) if your child:
- becomes unwell
- has more pain
- develops a high temperature
- is unable to walk on their bad leg
What can I do to help my child at home?
You should encourage your child to rest the affected leg as much as possible over the next few days. They may be too sore to attend school or nursery
Give regular pain relief medicine such as ibuprofen and paracetamol if required
Your child can go back to normal activities as they improve but should try to avoid sport or strenuous activity for 2 weeks
- The James Cook University Hospital, Marton Road, Middlesbrough, TS4 3BW
Telephone: 01642 850850
- The Friarage, Northallerton, North Yorkshire, DL6 1JG
Telephone: 01609 779911
- Redcar Primary Care Hospital, West Dyke Road, Redcar, TS10 4NW
Telephone: 01642 511000
South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust would like your feedback. If you wish to share your experience about your care and treatment or on behalf of a patient, please contact The Patient Experience Department who will advise you on how best to do this.
This service is based at The James Cook University Hospital but also covers the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton, our community hospitals and community health services.