- If your child has started limping, find out if they’ve injured their leg or foot or stood on something sharp. Inspect the soles of their feet and in between their toes for a wound or blister.
- If your child starts limping, it’s usually a sign of a minor injury such as a sprain. However, if they haven’t had an obvious injury, or there appears to be weakness elsewhere, such as the arms, they may need to be seen by a healthcare professional to look for other possible causes.
- Irritable hip is a common cause of hip pain and limping in a child. It often occurs after a recent viral illness such as a cold, sore throat, or diarrhoea and vomiting and is caused by inflammation of the lining of the joint and fluid inside the joint. Its peak age of onset is 5 to 6 years.
- However, irritable hip shares the symptoms of more serious hip conditions, such as septic arthritis (an infection inside the hip) and if your child has a fever, they should be seen urgently by a healthcare professional.
When should I worry and what should I do?
Call 999 or go to A&E now if your child:
- Is pale, mottled and feels abnormally cold to the touch
- Is going blue around the lips
- Becomes extremely agitated, confused or very lethargic (difficult to wake)
- Has a fit or seizure
- Develops a rash that does not disappear with pressure (see the ‘Glass Test’)
- If you think that your child has broken a bone
Call 111 or ask for an urgent GP appointment if your child:
- Is unable to put any weight on their leg
- Is no better after 48 hours
- Develops a fever above 38.5°C
If your child continues to have pain/limp that is slowly improving but they are otherwise well:
- Give your child regular ibuprofen for a few days. You can also give paracetamol to help with the pain
- Your child should rest as much as possible until the symptoms have resolved. You can then allow your child to gradually return to their usual activities
- You can get general advice on the NHS Conditions or from your local pharmacy
How long will it take for your child to get better?
- Your child should start getting better within a couple of days
- If they are no better within 48 hours, or not back to normal within 7 days, you should arrange for them to be seen by your GP surgery
Where should you seek help?
- If it is non-urgent, speak to your local pharmacist or health visitor.
- Or contact you GP practice and a qualified member of the clinical team will assess if your child needs to be seen urgently. For an urgent out-of-hours GP appointment, call NHS 111.
- You should only call 999 or go your nearest A&E department in critical or life threatening situations.