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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Medical Symptoms > Irritability in Children

Irritability in Children

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Irritability is a state of being overly sensitive to stimulation. Children who are irritable may, for example, cry easily.

What is going on in the body?

A child who is irritable may be responding to something that causes pain, fright, or discomfort. Some children are more sensitive to stimuli than others and may become more easily irritated. In some cases, a serious medical condition can cause irritability.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

The cause is of irritability is harder to figure out in very young children who cannot talk. Being overtired or hungry, teething, having soiled diapers, and the need for attention may all cause mild irritability.

Medical conditions can also cause irritability, including:

  • infections of any part of the body, such as upper respiratory infections or acute otitis media
  • head injury, meningitis, intracerebral hemorrhage, and increased intracranial pressure, or pressure inside the skull
  • tumors or cancer, such as a brain tumor
  • reaction to medications or vaccines, such as the pertussis vaccine or antibiotics
  • fetal alcohol syndrome, a collection of birth defects due to the mother drinking alcohol during the pregnancy
  • autism, a developmental disorder affecting the brain and personality
  • defects present at birth, such as congenital heart disease
  • child abuse
  • colic, with excessive crying in an otherwise normal baby
  • any serious illness, such as liver disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, kidney disease, or heart disease
  • disorders causing emotional or mental impairment, such as depression, anxiety, and abnormal grief
  • hormone imbalances, such as diabetes and hyperthyroidism
  • poisoning from toxic substances, such as lead poisoning
  • vitamin or mineral deficiencies, such as iron or folate deficiency
  • any other new or chronic illness
  • inborn errors of metabolism, such as aminoaciduria


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    Irritability in Children: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Reviewer: Adam Brochert, MD
    Date Reviewed: 07/13/01

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