Extreme Fatigue/Tiredness in Kids - Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Extreme Fatigue in Children – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Gunjan Baweja (Paediatrician)
View more Paediatrician Our Panel of Experts

Children are powerhouses of energy, and it is hard for parents to keep up with their pace and excitement. They run around the house and play, but their energy remains the same at night, rarely do they complain about being tired. But if one day, your child comes to you and says he is feeling tired and exhausted, it may be because of lack of sleep, overexertion or even an excuse to avoid homework. However, when a child complains of being tired all the time, it could be a sign of extreme fatigue.

What Is Extreme Fatigue?

Fatigue is a condition where your child is constantly tired and lacks the energy to even do everyday tasks. If your child is exceptionally sleepy even after getting enough rest, it is a sign of extreme fatigue. An underlying medical condition is usually a cause of extreme fatigue. It is crucial to determine the cause of extreme fatigue in your child so that he can receive appropriate medical treatment in time.

What Causes Extreme Fatigue in Children?

Extreme fatigue can be caused by several factors which are mentioned below:

1. Poor Nutrition

Unhealthy eating habits and eating a varied, balanced diet can cause deficiency diseases and other conditions like childhood obesity that may result in extreme fatigue in children.

A boy eating unhealthy food

2. Depression and Mental Problems

If your child is bullied at school or if he is struggling to study, he may not always come to you and tell his problems. Not sharing his problem and keeping things to himself may lead to mental and emotional problems, anxiety, and depression in him which also becomes a cause of fatigue.

3. Cardiac or Kidney Disease

Although rare in kids, a weak heart or failing kidneys cause extreme fatigue in children.

4. Allergies

Many types of allergic reactions cause our body to release chemicals that result in extreme fatigue. If your child has developed an allergic reaction to something, he might be feeling tired.

5. Epstein-Barr Virus

The Epstein-Barr virus causes an infectious disease called mononucleosis, and one of the symptoms of mononucleosis is fatigue. If your child is fatigued all the time, there are chances that he may have this disease. So, take him to a doctor at the earliest.

6. Anaemia

A deficiency of iron in the body causes anaemia, where there is a lack of haemoglobin in the blood to carry oxygen to the body’s cells. This can leave your child pale and fatigued.

7. Sedentary Lifestyle

A sedentary lifestyle without any physical activity can make a child lethargic and fatigued.

A boy living a sedentary lifestyle

8. Lack of Sleep/Sleep Disorders

If your child is staying up too late at night or is not getting enough sleep due to sleep disorders like child sleep apnea or narcolepsy, it could cause extreme fatigue.

9. Infections

Viral infections like cold and flu also cause fatigue in children. Several infections such as dengue and hepatitis can last for weeks or months, and they result in extreme fatigue.

10. Certain Types of Immune Disorders

Disorders of the body’s immune system can cause extreme fatigue in children.

11. Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a disease where the amount of thyroid hormone produced by the thyroid gland is very low. Thyroid hormone is necessary for muscle control, digestive and heart functions, mood control, bone maintenance, and brain development. Hypothyroidism causes extreme fatigue in children.


12. Chronic Illness

Chronic illnesses like asthma, diabetes or cystic fibrosis can cause extreme fatigue in children. This happens when the illnesses are not controlled by medical treatment or by a change of diet.

13. Cancer

Although cancer is rare in children, it is one of the possible early symptoms of extreme fatigue. Hence, it is advised that you take your child to a doctor if this symptom persists for long.

14. Side Effect of Medicines

Several medicines have side effects like extreme fatigue and drowsiness. These include cough syrups and allergy medicines. Giving cold and flu medicines to children may also make them drowsy and tired.

15. Adrenal Gland Problems

The adrenal glands in our bodies produce several hormones that help us manage stress in our daily lives. If the adrenal glands of a child are not functioning properly, it may result in adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is characterised by extreme tiredness, inability to think clearly (fogginess), and stress.

16. Chronic Fatigue

Chronic fatigue syndrome in children is extreme fatigue that lasts for over six months. It begins with symptoms that are similar to the symptoms of flu. If all other causes of extreme fatigue are ruled out, the doctor may diagnose it as chronic fatigue syndrome.

Symptoms of Extreme Fatigue in Kids

The various symptoms which characterise extreme fatigue in children are mentioned below:

  • Continuous yawning
  • Feeling extremely sleepy all the time
  • Lethargy
  • Disinterest in any physical activity or games
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Fogginess and memory issues
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck region

Apart from these, extreme fatigue combined with weight loss, bleeding nose, loss of appetite, headache, lumps or distorted vision could be a warning sign of leukaemia.

How to Treat Extreme Fatigue in Children

In order to treat extreme fatigue, your child’s paediatrician will determine the underlying cause of fatigue. Only then, will your child be treated by giving an appropriate medication or lifestyle and dietary changes. Here is how extreme fatigue can be treated:

1. Change of Medication

For a sleep disorder like narcolepsy, the doctor will prescribe medication containing serotonin inhibitors. This will prevent the child from falling asleep during the day. If a child’s allergy or cough medication causes extreme fatigue, the doctor will change the drug or the dosage.

2. Proper Sleep Routine

The most important treatment for extreme fatigue is a healthy sleep routine. Your child should get at least 8 to 10 hours of sleep every night. To make sure that he gets his due rest, set a fixed bedtime routine for him. That means no devices before bedtime, no heavy meals within 2 hours of bedtime, and a peaceful, dimly-lit bedroom.

3. Regular Exercise and Sun Exposure

Exercise is not just important for adults; it is equally important for kids, too! If you want your child to be healthy and active, make sure he exercises regularly and gets enough sun exposure every day. This will keep him energetic, and he won’t display any signs of fatigue.

Two boys playing soccer in a park

When to Consult a Paediatrician

You should take your child to a paediatrician in the following circumstances:

  • If extreme fatigue affects your child’s schooling and daily life.
  • If your child has extreme fatigue after taking prescription medication.
  • If extreme fatigue lasts over a week.
  • If extreme fatigue is combined with symptoms like weight loss, bleeding nose, loss of appetite, headache, lumps or distorted vision.

Things to Remember

Here are certain things you must be aware of as a parent to deal with extreme fatigue and tiredness in your child:

  • Growth spurts can cause extreme fatigue.
  • Sometimes, children may feign fatigue to avoid tasks they dislike. Find out the root cause first.
  • Establish a proper sleep routine, healthy diet, and regular exercise schedule for your child to avoid extreme fatigue.

Extreme fatigue, in most cases, is caused by exertion and inadequate sleep, and not by serious illnesses. Plenty of rest and nutritious food will resolve this. Do not jump to extreme conclusions. If the condition persists, consult a paediatrician, who can suggest the best treatment!

Also Read: Bacterial and Fungal Infections in Kids

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