Children's Hospital Colorado

Dizziness

Urgent or Emergency Care?

If you believe your child needs immediate attention and you have concerns for a life-threatening emergency, call 911. Not sure what counts as urgent and what's an emergency when your child is sick or injured? When it can't wait, know where to take your kids.

Help Me Decide

  • Dizziness is a sensation of light-headedness or feeling faint

Causes of Dizziness

  • Main Cause. Usually due to reduced blood flow to the brain for a short time. It can be triggered by many normal events:
  • Standing too long in one place. Reason: This causes pooling of blood in the legs.
  • Standing up suddenly. Reason: This causes sudden drop in blood pressure.
  • Dehydration. This can be from losing fluids and/or from not drinking enough fluid.
  • Low Oxygen (such as when running and out of breath). Reason: Lower than normal oxygen levels can't meet body's needs for a short time.
  • Too Much Sun or Hot Tub Use. Reason: Increased sweating causes fluid loss.
  • Sweating from Sports or Hard Work. Reason: Sweating causes fluid loss.
  • Fasting. Skipping a meal causes low blood sugar.
  • Fever
  • Motion Sickness. Main symptoms are dizziness and nausea.
  • Viral Syndrome. Patients with viral illnesses (e.g., colds, flu) often say they are a bit dizzy. This is never the only symptom. It may relate to weakness from being sick.
  • Vertigo (Serious). In addition to dizziness, the child complains that the room is spinning. They can't walk if they have vertigo. True vertigo is very rare in children. It's usually caused by middle ear disease.

Symptoms of Dizziness

  • Feeling dizzy or light headed
  • Feeling unsteady with slight loss of balance
  • Feeling "woozy" or not thinking clearly
  • May also have brief blurring of vision

Dizziness Scale

  • Mild: walks normal
  • Moderate: interferes with normal activities such as playing, school or sports
  • Severe: can't stand, needs support to walk, feels like passing out now

Call 911 Now

  • You think your child has a life-threatening emergency

Go to ER Now

  • Severe dizziness (unable to walk, requires support to walk)
  • Follows bleeding (Exception: small amount and dizzy from sight of blood)
  • Passed out (fainted) and not caused by prolonged standing
  • Acts or talks confused
  • Poisoning suspected (usually 8 months to 4 years old)
  • Drug abuse suspected (especially if psych. problems and over 8 years of age)
  • Severe headache
  • Child complains of heart pounding differently
  • Too weak to stand and not caused by prolonged standing

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Dehydration suspected. (No urine in over 8 hours, dark urine, very dry mouth and no tears)
  • Dizziness caused by heat exposure, prolonged standing, or poor fluid intake. It's not gone after 2 hours of rest and fluids.
  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Passed out (fainted) and caused by sudden or prolonged standing
  • Moderate dizziness (interferes with normal activities) present now. (Exception: Dizziness caused by heat exposure, prolonged standing, or poor fluid intake)
  • Fever present more than 3 days (72 hours)
  • Ear pain or congestion
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Mild dizziness (walking normally) present more than 3 days
  • Dizziness is a frequent problem
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Sudden or prolonged standing caused the dizziness
  • Poor fluid intake caused the dizziness
  • Mild dizziness from unknown cause present less than 3 days

Care Advice

Dizziness from Sudden or Prolonged Standing

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Standing up quickly is the most common cause of dizziness. This type of dizziness only lasts a short time. Getting out of bed is when it usually happens.
    • Prolonged standing in one place is another common cause.
    • Not drinking enough fluids or eating enough salt always makes it worse.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Standing - Pump Legs:
    • In the mornings, sit up for a few minutes before you stand up.
    • This will help your blood flow stay steady and adjust before you stand up.
    • With prolonged standing, contract and relax your leg muscles. Reason: This helps pump the blood back to the heart.
    • Sit down or lie down if you feel dizzy.
  3. Salt - Increase Intake :
    • Most people with this type of dizziness (due to standing) don't get enough salt.
    • Try to eat some salty foods (potato chips or pretzels) every day.
  4. Fluids - Drink More:
    • Drink several glasses of fruit juice, other clear fluids or water.
    • This will improve your child's fluid status and blood sugar.
    • If the weather is hot, make sure the fluids are cold.
  5. Lie Down:
    • Lie down with feet up for 1 hour.
    • Reason: This will increase blood flow to the brain.
  6. Prevention:
    • Extra water and salty foods during sports or hot weather
    • Regular mealtimes and snacks
    • Enough sleep and rest
  7. What to Expect:
    • With treatment, the dizziness usually goes away in 1 to 2 hours.
  8. Call Your Doctor If:
    • After 2 hours of rest and fluids, still feels dizzy
    • Your child passes out (faints)
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse

Dizziness from Poor Fluid Intake

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Not drinking enough fluids and being a little dehydrated probably caused the dizziness.
    • It should go away with drinking fluids and resting in a cool place.
    • This is always made worse during hot weather. Too much sun exposure can also increase the body's need for fluid.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Fluids - Drink More:
    • Drink several glasses of fruit juice, other clear fluids or water.
    • This will improve your child's fluid status and blood sugar.
    • If the weather is hot, make sure the fluids are cold.
  3. Cool Off:
    • If the weather is hot, use a cold pack or washcloth to the forehead.
    • Taking a cool shower or bath will help even more.
  4. Lie Down:
    • Lie down with feet up for 1 hour.
    • Reason: This will increase blood flow to the brain.
  5. Prevention:
    • Extra water and salty foods during sports or hot weather
    • Regular mealtimes and snacks
    • Enough sleep and rest
  6. What to Expect:
    • With treatment, the dizziness usually goes away in 1 to 2 hours.
  7. Call Your Doctor If:
    • After 2 hours of rest and fluids, still feels dizzy
    • Your child passes out (faints)
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse

Dizziness from Unknown Cause

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Dizziness that goes away is a harmless symptom.
    • It's usually due to not drinking enough water during sports or hot weather.
    • It can also be caused by skipping a meal or too much sun.
    • Sometimes, it's part of a viral illness.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Lie Down:
    • Lie down with feet up for 1 hour.
    • Reason: This will increase blood flow to the brain.
  3. Fluids - Drink More:
    • Drink several glasses of fruit juice, other clear fluids or water.
    • This will improve your child's fluid status and blood sugar.
    • If the weather is hot, make sure the fluids are cold.
  4. Cool Off:
    • If the weather is hot, use a cold pack or washcloth to the forehead.
    • Taking a cool shower or bath will help even more.
  5. Prevention:
    • Extra water and salty foods during sports or hot weather
    • Regular mealtimes and snacks
    • Enough sleep and rest
  6. What to Expect:
    • With treatment, the dizziness usually goes away in 1 to 2 hours.
    • Mild dizziness with a viral illness may last 1 or 2 days.
  7. Call Your Doctor If:
    • After 2 hours of rest and fluids, still feeling dizzy
    • Mild dizziness lasts over 3 days
    • Your child passes out (faints)
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse

Disclaimer

The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.

  • Not a Substitute - The information and materials in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker should not be used as a substitute for the care and knowledge that your physician can provide to you.
  • Supplement - The information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker are meant to supplement the information that you obtain from your physician. If there is a disagreement between the information presented herein and what your physician has told you -- it is more likely that your physician is correct. He or she has the benefit of knowing your child's medical problems.
  • Limitations - You should recognize that the information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker have the following limitations, in comparison to being examined by your own physician:
    • You can have a conversation with your child's doctor.
    • Your child's doctor can perform a physical examination and any necessary tests.
    • Your child could have an underlying medical problem that requires a physician to detect.
    • If your child is taking medications, they could influence how he experiences various symptoms.

If you think that your child is having a medical emergency, call 911 or the number for the local emergency ambulance service NOW!

And when in doubt, call your child's doctor NOW or go to the closest emergency department.

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