Search

close   X

healthcare locations

Search Locations

close   X

First Aid: Stiff Neck

First Aid

A stiff neck without other symptoms might be caused by minor muscle strain from sleeping in an odd position or looking down at a phone too long.

If your child has a stiff neck along with a fever and a headache, it could be more serious. For instance, meningitis is a rare infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord that can cause a stiff neck, headache, and fever.

What to Do

If your child has a stiff or sore neck but no fever or other symptoms:

  • put a warm moist cloth on the neck as often as needed for pain
  • give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain
  • call the doctor if symptoms last more than a few days

Get Medical Care if Your Child Has a Stiff Neck and:

  • had a recent injury
  • has been bitten by a tick within the last month
  • has a fever (or lower-than-normal temperature in babies)
  • seems very tired or drowsy
  • is very cranky (or is a baby and can't be comforted)
  • has a lasting headache
  • is vomiting
  • has a skin rash
  • has flu-like symptoms
  • is an infant and has a weak suck, high-pitched cry, or a bulging soft spot on the skull

Think Prevention!

  • Get all routine immunizations on time, especially the meningococcal vaccine, which protects against bacterial meningitis.
  • Help kids avoid tick bites:
    • Use insect repellent (with no more than 10% to 30% concentration of DEET).
    • Check kids and pets often for ticks.
    • Make 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.

related articles

want to learn more?

local family meets virtually with congress to prioritize kids health

local family to ask congress to prioritize children’s health during virtual Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Week

learn more