It can be frustrating and exhausting to be a parent, especially when your child is hurting. This frustration can turn into a feeling of helplessness if your child is hurting and you don’t know what’s causing it or how to make it better. This is an issue I run into a lot when kids experience growing pains. Here are some suggestions you can try that might soothe those aches and pains and give your child, and you, peace of mind.
Yes, Growing Pains Are Real
I find that many parents are surprised to find out that growing pains are real and not just an old wives’ tale. Growing pains affect between 25 percent and 40 percent of children. They are most common during early childhood, when a child is between 3 and 5 years old, and then later in adolescence between ages 8 and 12.
Parents often bring their children to me with complaints about throbbing legs, pain in the joints, calves, thighs, or behind their knees. To parents, their child looks fine and their joints seem OK, but pain is common in late afternoon or early evening and can wake a sleeping child. If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, they may be experiencing growing pains. We're not certain what causes growing pains, but there are remedies that might help ease them once your doctor determines that's the culprit.
How to Help
Treating a child’s aches and pains isn’t much different than treating adult aches and pains. One way is through stretching. Obviously, you'll want to speak with your pediatrician beforehand to make sure your child will not be doing anything too strenuous. Massaging the painful area can also offer some relief, as well as using a heating pad, taking a hot bath before bed or, after checking with your doctor, giving a low dose of ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Unless you get the go-ahead from your doctor, do not give your child medication, especially aspirin, for these pains. Aspirin has been linked to a rare but serious condition that occurs in young people called Reye’s syndrome, which causes swelling in the liver and brain.
Don’t Assume It’s Growing Pains
If your child is experiencing any of the following symptoms accompanied by pain, it's time to call your doctor:
- Long-lasting pain
- Pain in the morning
- Swelling or redness
- Loss of appetite
- Unusual behavior
These are not common symptoms of growing pains, and could mean your child has a condition that needs to be treated by your physician.
Dr. Jennifer Lai is a board-certified pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Spring Medical and Diagnostic Center. She’s accepting appointments for kids of all ages. Her clinical interests include general Pediatrics, newborns, autism, and obesity.