EXPERT ADVICE Why are my kid's joints so painful?

Don’t panic ― hip inflammation in children is easily treatable. We have advice that will ease your mind!

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Your energetic toddler is always looking for opportunities to get active and explore. All that vigorous physical activity can sometimes result in superficial cuts and bruises as well as muscle aches.

Still, the pain should not affect junior’s ability to move ― they should not cause them to limp or wince in pain when they walk. If they are, bring them to a doctor immediately to rule out septic arthritis, an inflammation of the joints caused by a bacterial infection.

Another related condition that causes excruciating joint pain is toxic — or transient — synovitis. Unlike septic arthritis, this condition can happen suddenly, usually if your child suffered a recent cold or flu infection.

The symptoms may sound severe but this common ailment usually resolves spontaneously within three to seven days.

Gleneagles Hospital orthopaedic surgeon Dr Francis Wong explains although the condition is described as “toxic”, it isn’t contagious. “A clinical examination will show a stiff joint with painful restricted movements. Your child is otherwise normal.”

The symptoms may sound severe but this common ailment usually resolves spontaneously within three to seven days. It is also more common in boys than girls, between the ages of 3 and 10. Dr Wong has expert advice about the condition…

What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?
Your child often experiences acute pain in one of their joints. The most common joint being the hip. The pain may range from mild to severe and is usually accompanied by complaints of pain and a reluctance to walk or [bear weight].

What are the treatment options?
Once the diagnosis is made — rest, anti-inflammation drugs like Brufen (a form of Ibuprofen) and Panadol (paracetamol) is usually enough. No antibiotics is needed.

So, is it safe for parents to give their child over-the-counter painkillers?
If in doubt, we recommend that the child be reviewed by a doctor.

How can parents tell the difference between septic arthritis and toxic synovitis?
A septic joint is usually very painful. In addition, the child is toxic, febrile (running a fever) and lethargic. Parents are not expected to be able to tell the difference. Often doctors have difficulty, too.

What tests are carried out to see if a child has synovitis?
Tests will be done to exclude other causes. These include a blood test to exclude infection — in kids who have toxic synovitis, the blood count levels would be normal. An X-ray to exclude bone infection or fractures may also be done.

Photo: iStock

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