Fatigue / tiredness in children

Child asleep on the sofa

Your child may feel very tired and lacking in energy during and after treatment. It can take some months before the tiredness goes away completely.

What causes it?

  • Cancer drugs like chemotherapy or targeted therapies – Fatigue usually is at its worst around 7-10 days after chemotherapy. Energy levels should improve just before the next course of chemotherapy
  • Surgery – Your child may feel very tired when recovering from surgery
  • Radiotherapy – Fatigue can build up during a course of radiotherapy, so you might find your child feels more tired towards the end of their treatment or for some time afterwards. Travelling to and from the hospital can also add to the tiredness
  • Low levels of red blood cells (anaemia), due to the cancer or its treatment
  • Not eating well. Fatigue can be caused by poor nutrition  
  • Not sleeping well
  • Dealing with difficult emotions and feeling stressed, anxious or sad
  • Lack of exercise 

What should I do if I my child has symptoms?

Tell your child’s medical team. Different things may help, depending on what’s causing the fatigue. For example, if your child’s red blood cell count is low, a transfusion should make them feel better. If they are not eating well, a dietitian can advise you on how to improve things.

Tips to help 

  • Encourage your child to take some exercise if they can. Exercise has been shown to help with fatigue. The hospital physiotherapist can create an exercise programme for them.
  • Keep a diary of when their energy levels are higher, so that you can plan activities around the times when they tend to feel best. 
  • Encourage your child to rest and not to try to do too much. Naps can be helpful as long as they don’t interfere with their sleep at night. 
  • Try and keep a regular sleep routine. 
  • Try to talk to your child about any worries they might have and about how they’re feeling, as stress can make fatigue worse. An older child might find it helpful to write down their feelings in a notepad or diary.
  • Talk to the dietitian for ideas and support if your child’s appetite is poor and you feel it is impacting their energy level. 

For more information

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1800 200 700

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