Leg pain in a toddler can be indicative of many different conditions, all of which have similar symptoms. It is important that any sudden problems with a toddler’s leg be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible to minimize permanent damage.
Growing pains are classified as pain that occurs deep in the leg muscles usually at night. The pain can last for up to an hour at a time. According to the Mayo Clinic, there is no real evidence that growth hurts. However, the activities which toddlers engage in can place a large amount of stress on their musculoskeletal system. Massage or hot compresses can be used to relieve the pain. Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen may also help.
Sprain or Strain
A sprain affects the ligaments around a leg joint when they are stretched too far. A strain occurs when a leg muscle is pulled or stretched beyond capacity. Sprains and strains will cause a toddler to limp and may cause swelling or bruising depending on the severity. Treat the strain or sprain with rest, ice, compression and elevation. Ibuprofen may be given to reduce pain and inflammation.
Broken Bone or Fracture
Although toddlers’ bones are still somewhat flexible, enough pressure can still cause a fracture. Bruising, swelling, inability to use the leg, and severe pain are all indicative of a possible fracture. If a fracture is suspected, seek medical help immediately.
Osteomyelitis is a bone infection which commonly affects the leg bones. According to Children’s Hospital Boston, bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus or viruses that have entered the body are the cause of osteomyelitis. Symptoms in toddlers include pain, decreased use of the leg, swelling, redness and fever. Bone scans, X-rays and blood tests help doctors diagnose the condition and treatment commences with antibiotics, surgery and pain medication.
Leg pain that is sudden with no history of injury may point to septic arthritis. A toddler with this condition will have limited range of motion, usually in the knee or hip, and may run a fever. According to the Mayo Clinic, septic arthritis is caused by a bacterial infection in the body that spreads to a joint causing severe pain. Blood tests and X-rays can diagnose this condition. Antibiotics are administered for treatment, and excess fluid in the joint may need to be drained.
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, or JRA, is an autoimmune disease where the white blood cells cannot distinguish between healthy cells and bacteria or viruses. Nemours, a large children’s healthcare provider, shows JRA affects approximately 50,000 children in the United States. The disease can appear between six months and 16 years of age with the first symptoms being joint pain, redness and swelling. The disease is diagnosed by blood tests and X-rays to rule out other conditions with the same symptoms. Medication, physical therapy and exercise are used in combination to treat JRA.