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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates

Brenner Children’s pediatric emergency department has moved back to its original location. Learn more

In order to help protect patients, family members and health care workers from the spread of COVID-19, no visitors are allowed at any of Wake Forest Baptist Health’s outpatient or inpatient facilities, except in certain situations.
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More COVID-19 Updates

First Aid: Stiff Neck

First Aid: Stiff Neck

First AidA stiff neck without other symptoms might be caused by minor muscle strain from sleeping in an odd position or sitting in front of a computer too long.

But other signs may accompany neck stiffness, making it a more serious complaint. For instance, meningitis is a rare infectious illness that can result in stiff neck, headache, and fever.

What to Do

If your child has a stiff or sore neck but no fever or other symptoms:

  • apply a warm moist cloth to the neck
  • give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain
  • call the doctor if symptoms persist

Seek Medical Care

If Your Child Has a Stiff Neck and:

  • had a recent injury
  • has been bitten by a tick within the last month
  • a fever (or lower-than-normal temperature in babies)
  • fatigue, drowsiness, or loss of energy
  • extreme irritability (or trouble being comforted in babies)
  • persistent headache
  • vomiting
  • eye sensitivity to light
  • a skin rash
  • flu-like symptoms
  • for infants: a weak suck, high-pitched cry, or a bulging soft spot on the skull

Think Prevention!

  • Get all routine immunizations on time, especially the meningococcal vaccine, which protects against meningitis.
  • Help avoid tick bites by using insect repellent (with no more than 10% to 30% concentration of DEET); checking kids and pets frequently for ticks; and making 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.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2014