A stiff neck without other symptoms might be caused by minor muscle strain from sleeping in an odd position or looking down at a phone too long.
If your child has a stiff neck along with a fever and a headache, it could be more serious. For instance, meningitis is a rare infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord that can cause a stiff neck, headache, and fever.
What to Do
If your child has a stiff or sore neck but no fever or other symptoms:
- put a warm moist cloth on the neck as often as needed for pain
- give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain
- call the doctor if symptoms last more than a few days
Get Medical Care if Your Child Has a Stiff Neck and:
- had a recent injury
- has been bitten by a tick within the last month
- has a fever (or lower-than-normal temperature in babies)
- seems very tired or drowsy
- is very cranky (or is a baby and can't be comforted)
- has a lasting headache
- is vomiting
- has a skin rash
- has flu-like symptoms
- is an infant and has a weak suck, high-pitched cry, or a bulging soft spot on the skull
- Get all routine immunizations on time, especially the meningococcal vaccine, which protects against bacterial meningitis.
- Help kids avoid tick bites:
- Use insect repellent (with no more than 10% to 30% concentration of DEET).
- Check kids and pets often for ticks.
- Make sure kids wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts in high-risk outdoor areas.
- Have children avoid activities and equipment known to be risky for neck injuries.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2021 KidsHealth® All rights reserved. Images provided by iStock, Getty Images, Corbis, Veer, Science Photo Library, Science Source Images, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com