Lethargy in children is common and requires no treatment in most cases. However, children becoming lethargic can also be due to diseases like meningitis.
Many parents often complain about their children being lethargic. But what does lethargy mean? Lethargy in children refers to decreased energy levels. It is defined as a prolonged feeling of tiredness and fatigue. Lethargic children lie down lazily and won’t even move around for a considerable period of time. A lethargic feeling arising from flagging energy levels, is sometimes associated with serious ailments and even psychological disorders. Although adults are more susceptible to lethargy, active children, too experience this feeling.
Lack of Sleep: Children who do not get sufficient sleep often feel lethargic throughout the day. Due to lack of sleep, the child experiences persistent fatigue and is unable to concentrate on his daily routine. A feeling of tiredness is commonly observed in children, when they are deprived of sufficient sleep. Hence, sleeping 7-8 hours in a day, is necessary to perform day-to day activities efficiently and to keep lethargy at bay. Sleeping disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea can also trigger persistent feeling of sluggishness in children.
Malnutrition: Malnourished children are bound to show signs of lethargy. These children show a considerable decrease in energy levels. As the body does not get its daily dosage of proteins, vitamins and minerals, the child shows a sharp drop in daytime activity levels. Hypoglycemia due to poor nutrition can also cause lethargy in children
Anemia: This condition causes a major reduction in the number of red blood cells, that deliver oxygen to different organs of the body. Thus, anemia causes lack of oxygen that makes the child lethargic. A poor diet, deficient in iron, is the most common factor that contributes to lethargy in infants.
Fever: Fever and lethargy in children are often correlated. Fever in children commonly occurs due to viral infections such as common cold and seasonal flu. Fevers that have a temperature ranging from 101 to 103 ºF are not serious, but make the child uncomfortable. The child is unresponsive and prefers minimal verbal interaction. However, infants 6 weeks old and suffering from high fever (more than 101) require immediate treatment as it is a symptom of serious illness.
Depression: Children suffering from depression also slowly start becoming lethargic. Although depression is a mental problem, it drains energy, making the child more lethargic. Feeling of tiredness, accompanied by anxiety attacks, are some of the symptoms of depression. Even standing for some time cannot be tolerated by the child.
Stress: In today’s cut throat competition, children can be bogged down with high expectations from parents. Parental pressure to perform well in studies and extra curricular activities can leave the child stressed. This too can make the child sluggish and disinterested in any activity.
Meningitis: Meningitis that leads to extreme lethargy, occurs in large number of children. Meningitis, an infection, causes inflammation of the membranes that protect the brain and spinal cord from external damage. Children with meningitis experience headache, fever and sleep more than usual. They show lack of energy and interest in outdoor and indoor activities.
One of the best ways to treat and prevent lethargy is to monitor your child’s diet. As a parent, you should see to it that the child is getting healthy meals. The habit of skipping breakfast or snacking on unhealthy foodstuffs often leads to low energy levels in children. Keep in mind that the breakfast and lunch are the most important meals of the day. So, kick-start your child’s day with a breakfast that provide ample proteins and carbohydrates. 2-3 slices of whole wheat bread with peanut butter smeared over them and a bowl of whole grain cereals is also a good option for breakfast. Children can also be given hard-boiled eggs with few serving of fish and lean meat at breakfast. Make sure that your child does not go to school without a glass of milk. As far as lunch and dinner is considered, including green leafy vegetables and fruits is a must. Whole grain tortilla with romaine lettuce and few almonds delivers essential nutrients at lunch will keep energy levels high throughout the day. Avoid deep-frying and focus should be more on healthy cooking methods such as steaming, stir-frying, grilling and baking.
Lethargy in Babies
Lethargy in babies is not easy to diagnose. However, sleeping for longer periods of time than normal, or a feeling of tiredness even after taking a long nap, are all signs of lethargy in babies. One can determine whether a baby is lethargic by noticing its behavioral changes. Lethargic babies, also referred to as listless babies, appear to lack enthusiasm. The baby seems sluggish and drowsy, which can be a sign of serious illness such as pneumonia.
On rare occasions, persistent tiredness and weakness in children has been associated with liver problems, kidney dysfunction and thyroid disorders such as hypothyroidism. On the whole, in today’s hectic lifestyle, experiencing fatigue is fairly normal. However, unusual lack of energy that remains for quite some time needs proper medical attention to diagnose symptoms associated with this condition.