Dizziness refers to the feeling of lightheadedness or faintness. Children may feel dizzy due to various reasons. It is crucial to determine the underlying cause, as frequent fainting can pose a threat to their safety and well-being.
Children feel dizzy when there is reduced blood flow to the brain for a short time. This can be triggered by various events. Dizziness can be treated when the underlying cause is addressed.
Read this post to understand the various causes of dizziness in children and know its symptoms, risks and complications, and treatment options.
Symptoms Of Dizziness In Children
The common symptoms of dizziness in children include
- Loss of balance and a feeling of unsteadiness
- Inability to think clearly
- Blurred vision for a brief moment
- The feeling that the world around them is revolving
Based on the severity, your child may experience mild, moderate, and severe dizziness.
In mild dizziness, the child may feel slight lightheadedness but can walk normally and perform their activities. In moderate dizziness, the child may feel weak, and the dizziness could affect their ability to stand and take part in activities such as walking and running. In severe dizziness, the child may not be able to stand, and the lightheadedness may worsen, making the child feel as though they are on the verge of fainting (1).
Causes Of Dizziness In Children
Often, dizziness could be due to weakness, but sometimes, it can signal an underlying medical condition. Here are a few causes of dizziness in children.
1. Prolonged standing
Dizziness due to prolonged standing commonly affects children who have a slender build and reduced blood volume. When the child stands in the same position for longer periods, the blood tends to pool in the legs, slowing down blood supply to the brain. Often, the symptoms of dizziness may subside in 30-60 seconds, and the child may seem well and free of any symptoms if they remain upright or are held upright (2).
2. Orthostatic hypertension (OHT)
Orthostatic hypertension is a condition characterized by an increase in blood pressure when in the upright position. Studies suggest that OHT can increase the risk of hypertension in young adults. The common symptoms of OHT include dizziness, headache, chest tightness, chest pain, palpitations, and syncope (fainting or passing out). Sudden postural changes, prolonged standing, emotional stress, and a stuffy environment can trigger OHT (3).
Children may also feel dizzy when they are dehydrated. When there is excess water loss from the body, it can cause lightheadedness and syncope. Other signs of dehydration include dry lips, dry tongue, fatigue, muscle weakness, headache, and lethargy (4).
4. Ear infections
Conditions such as labyrinthitis (problem inside the inner ear) and vestibular neuritis (inflammation of the vestibular nerve in the inner ear) can cause sudden dizziness in children. Ear infections are often self limiting, but the doctor might prescribe antibiotics if there is any bacterial infection (5).
It is a condition in which the blood does not have enough healthy red blood cells, resulting in reduced oxygen flow to the organs. Some common signs of anemia are dizziness, fatigue, general body weakness, loss of appetite, pale skin, and low immunity (6). If your child often feels dizzy, it is important to get their hemoglobin levels checked.
6. Vestibular migraine
This could be caused by a hereditary condition, lack of sleep, dehydration, or allergy to certain foods. Although the exact cause is unknown, experts believe that it might be due to the constriction of blood vessels around the brain. Besides dizziness, vestibular migraine is characterized by motion sickness, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, and loss of balance (7).
7. Benign paroxysmal vertigo of childhood (BPVC)
The cause for this condition is not known; however, it is thought to be a precursor to migraine at an older age. It is characterized by symptoms such as nystagmus (fluttering eye movements), loss of balance, vomiting, pale appearance, sweating, and head tilt. It typically affects children aged 3-4 years, and most children outgrow these symptoms as they get older (8).
8. Other causes
Risks And Complications Of Dizziness
Children who are malnourished or those who have a family history of autoimmune diseases are at a higher risk of developing dizziness.
As dizziness is a symptom of an underlying problem, the complications depend on the severity of the underlying issue. Also, frequent episodes of dizziness may lead to fainting, which can cause injury and affect children’s well-being.
Diagnosis Of Frequent Dizziness
If your child often complains of dizziness, or if you spot the signs, it is best to seek medical advice. Your doctor would do a physical examination and take your family’s medical history to determine the underlying cause. They may also recommend tests such as audiometry, vestibular function tests, electronystagmography, blood tests, CT scans, and X-rays.
Treatment For Dizziness In Children
The treatment for dizziness depends on the underlying cause. However, the first line of treatment for dizziness involves asking the child to sit with their legs at an elevated position. This helps the blood to circulate to the brain.
Dizziness is often a self-limiting condition. However, if the dizziness persists, then it is best to seek medical advice. Here are a few ways to manage dizziness in children (9).
- Prescribing medications such as antibiotics, decongestant, or antihistamines in the case of ear infections.
- Administering antidepressants to alleviate migraine-related vertigo or dizziness
- Instructing your child to get up from the bed slowly and avoid sudden changes in position
- Giving them plenty of water and juices to replenish the lost body fluids
- Giving your child an iron-rich diet if they are diagnosed with anemia
- Ensuring they shift their body weight from one leg to another or distribute the weight equally on both legs when they have to stand for long hours.
Dizziness is often a symptom of an underlying cause. Make sure you are aware of your child’s condition to prevent repeated episodes of dizziness. Treatment is often focused on managing the moment they are dizzy and teaching them how to avoid it. Dizziness can be multifactorial, so understanding the environmental and mental triggers is very important.
2. Julian M. Stewart and Debbie Clarke; He’s Dizzy when he Stands Up.” An Introduction to Initial orthostatic Hypotension; HHS Author Manuscripts (2011).
3. Yang Hu, Hongfang Jin, and Junbao Du; Orthostatic Hypertension in Children: An Update; Frontiers in Pediatrics (2020).
4. Naila A. Shaheen et al.; Public knowledge of dehydration and fluid intake practices: variation by participants’ characteristics; BMC Public Health (2018).
5. Labyrinthitis and Vestibular Neuritis; C.S Mott Children’s Hospital
6. Phyllis Atta Parbey et al.; Risk Factors of Anaemia among Children under Five Years in the Hohoe Municipality, Ghana: A Case-Control Study; Hindawi (2019).
7. Thyra Langhagen et al.; Vestibular Migraine in Children and Adolescents: Clinical Findings and Laboratory Tests; Frontiers in Neurology (2014).
8. Benign Paroxysmal Vertigo of Childhood (BPVC); Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
9. Vertigo (Dizziness); Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
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