First Aid: Stiff Neck
A 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
- 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
- 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