If your child is normally full of energy, showing symptoms of lethargy can make you concerned he is experiencing an underlying medical condition. While lethargy resembles fatigue, it is typically accompanied by an underlying cause beyond missing a few minutes of sleep per night. Understanding some of the conditions related to lethargy can help you determine if your child needs to take a trip to the physician.
Lethargy can involve a number of behaviors. These range from being in an immobile state to overwhelming tiredness. Children with lethargy may appear tired or lack the energy they normally possess. Lethargy also can be accompanied by mental changes, such as disinterest in usual activities or a feeling of overall sadness or depression.
The reason lethargy is a common symptom associated with illness is that the body requires extra energy to fight off a viral, bacterial, fungal or other infection type. Energy is then used to manufacture antibodies or immunoglobulins to help rid the body of infection. While lethargy as a sole symptom is rarely considered an emergency condition, it can be one of the first signs your child is becoming ill, according to the website Better Medicine.
Indication of Illness
Lethargy in kids can be related to illnesses ranging from allergies to meningitis. Observe your child for symptoms that accompany lethargy, including sleeping all day, sensitivity to cold, swelling, coughing, constipation, anxiety, changes in appetite, shortness of breath or muscle weakness. Discuss these and other symptoms you may observe with your child’s physician, who can then conduct a physical examination that could include listening to your child’s heartbeat, feeling your child’s throat or taking a blood test. Because your child’s immune system is still developing, remember that illnesses will occur, but by seeking medical consultation for lethargy, if necessary, you can ensure early intervention to prevent further complications.
Lethargy is a medical emergency when your child appears to be in a coma-like state in which she doesn't respond to questions, speak or move. This indicates your child is severely ill and requires immediate medical attention. Keep in mind, however, other symptoms accompanying lethargy, such as your child simply not acting like her usual self, may still warrant a trip to your healthcare provider’s office.