Little Joel felt such intense pain in his calves after a fever, he couldn’t move. His mother recounts his experience…

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“My son, Joel, is 4 this year. He’s a very outgoing and active child, extremely friendly and a total chatterbox!

He has always been a healthy child and hardly ever falls ill. I think it’s because I breastfed him till he was 4, plus, he loves his fruits and vegetables.

A few weeks ago, on a Wednesday, Joel came down with a cough. He developed a fever the following evening. He was really lethargic and had little or no appetite.

On Thursday night, his fever shot up to 39.2 deg C. It didn’t subside, even after a dose of paracetamol. I sponged him through the night, hoping to bring his temperature down.

The next day, he was still not eating, aside from some apples. Thankfully, we could still keep him hydrated with some ice cubes.

Joel crawled out of his room after his afternoon nap, complaining of feeling pain in his calves.”

He was vomiting, too, though it was just liquids, as he wasn’t eating much.

Finally, on Saturday, his temperature seemed to be going down, so we thought that the fever had finally broken. However, he was still lethargic and developed a rash on Saturday night.

I read that having a rash following a fever was common, and I thought it may be just “slapped cheek syndrome” ― a mild infection that comes after a fever and usually clears up in a couple of weeks.

But on Sunday, Joel crawled out of his room after his afternoon nap, complaining of feeling pain in his calves. After resting for a while, he managed to walk.

I texted a friend who is a physiotherapist. I considered seeing her the next day, since Joel’s leg was still painful, but after asking me a few questions, she suggested that I send him to the paediatrician instead.

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On Monday morning, Joel woke up and complained of pain in his legs again. This time, he was not able to stand at all. He told us that his calves were causing him agony.

Even though he wasn’t crying, he was completely immobile. He couldn’t stand or walk. He shuddered in pain the moment we touched his calves.

He constantly reminded us that his leg was in pain ― we carried him everywhere and he even had to sit down while we bathed him.

I was completely puzzled, but I didn’t panic. I remained calm, so that Joel would be calm, too ― I didn’t want him to pick up on my vibes and be scared.

My physiotherapist friend even wondered if it was growing pains, or if he was having cramps. But never would I have linked the pain in his calves to the fever that he’d had the previous week.

He couldn’t stand or walk. He shuddered in pain the moment we touched his calves.

When we brought Joel to the paediatrician, we were told that it was a symptom of the viral fever. The doctor was calm and reassuring, and told us that he should be up and running in a few days.

But he also noted that if Joel wasn’t walking after a few days of rest, we were to bring him back to have a blood test done.

We were given some paracetamol for his pain, but Joel didn’t take it, since he didn’t complain much about the discomfort, except if we touched his legs or if he tried to walk.

On Tuesday afternoon, Joel suddenly told us that one of his calves was no longer in pain and that he could stand on one leg. A few hours later, he asked to be let out of the stroller as he wanted to walk around with his younger sister.

He was overjoyed and announced that he had finally recovered. Both legs were no longer in pain. Initially he limped a little as he tried to regain his footing, but not long after, he was running around, and hopping up and down.

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I Googled to find out more about this side effect of a viral infection, and learnt that it could be a condition called myositis, where inflammation can damage the fibres of a muscle.

Weakened by the inflammation, the muscles are unable to contract. The symptoms can be dramatic and frightening, but usually disappear within a few days.

Young children can develop a condition known as benign acute childhood myositis, especially after recovering from a flu, or some other respiratory infection caused by a virus.

I learnt that it could be a condition called myositis, where inflammation can damage the fibres of a muscle.”

While pain relief medication can be given, no other treatment is necessary. The illness usually gets better within a few days.

This episode has taught me a few things as a parent. First, never doubt your child when he says he’s in pain or in discomfort. Second, always stay calm and don’t overreact. Finally, teach proper hygiene. Get your child to cover his mouth when he coughs and sneezes, and wash his hands often, so that the illness doesn’t spread. I’m really glad the virus didn’t spread to his 1-year-old sister!”

Vivian Soh, 39, is mum to Joely, 1, and Joel, 4.

Photos: Vivian Soh

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