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Muscle Cramps in Children: Care Instructions


A muscle cramp is when a muscle tightens up suddenly. A cramp often happens in the legs. A muscle cramp is also called a muscle spasm or a charley horse.

Muscle cramps usually last less than a minute. But the pain may last for several minutes. Leg cramps that occur at night may wake your child.

Heavy exercise, dehydration, and being overweight can make muscle cramps more likely. An imbalance of certain chemicals, called electrolytes, in the blood can also lead to muscle cramps.

You can treat a cramp by stretching and massaging the muscle. If cramps keep coming back, your doctor may prescribe medicine that relaxes your child's muscles.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids. This can prevent dehydration.
  • Have your child stretch the muscles every day, especially before and after exercise and at bedtime. Regular stretching can relax your child's muscles. This may prevent cramps.
  • Do not suddenly increase the amount of exercise your child gets. Increase your child's exercise a little each week.
  • When your child gets a cramp, have your child stretch and massage the muscle. Your child can also take a warm shower or bath to relax the muscle.
  • Ask your doctor if you can give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for cramps. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Do not give your child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines contain acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has a new fever.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child's muscle cramps often wake your child up at night.
  • Your child gets muscle cramps often that do not go away after home treatment.
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.