Osteomyelitis (being treated with antibiotics)

Advice for parents or carers taking their child home after seeing a hospital-based healthcare professional.

Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone. Any part of the bone can be affected.

  • Pain in the affected area especially when your child moves. This may prevent your child from straightening the affected limb.
  • The pain usually starts suddenly, although there may have been a previous injury to the affected area.
  • Fever
  • Your child may become unsettled or miserable.



Osteomyelitis can be caused by bacteria spreading from an existing infection or as a result of an injury such as a deep wound. For children, there is often no obvious cause for the infection.



Your child will need to have antibiotics to treat the infection. At first, we usually give these directly into the bloodstream (intravenous) via a cannula (a small plastic tube). the antibiotics may sting when they are being given and they can sometimes cause redness. We will decide how long your child needs to have antibiotics depending on where the infection is and how well your child responds to the treatment. We will do some blood tests to check that the antibiotics are working. When your child's temperature is back to normal, their blood results show that the medicine is working, and their pain has improved, the doctor may decide they can have their antibiotics as a syrup or tablets. We usually give antibiotics for four to six weeks. Some children may also need to have surgery.


What else can you do to help?

It is very important to make sure your child keeps taking every dose of their oral antibiotics so that they recover from the infection and prevent it coming back. Your child must take the entire course of antibiotics, as directed by their health care professional.

You can give your child regular pain relief (paracetamol or ibuprofen) until the pain has improved. Please note: do not give your child ibuprofen if they have chicken pox.

If your child has a plaster cast, we will show you how to look after it.



Osteomyelitis usually clears up completely when a child has treatment for it. and children do not usually experience long-term complications. The orthopaedic team will review your child to monitor their progress.

If you are concerned that your child's condition is getting worse, you should contact the hospital urgently - you'll find the contact details on the information you were provided with when your child was discharged.

Symptoms to look out for:

  • Fever
  • Fast breathing
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Changes in behaviour, such as confusion or disorientation
  • Increase in pain, swelling, redness, stiffness, and warmth in the affected area.


Preventing osteomyelitis reoccurring

  • Mak sure your child takes their entire course of antibiotics as directed by their health care professional.
  • Keep your child's skin clean. All cuts and wounds, especially deep wounds should be cleaned well.
  • Your child will also have follow-up appointments after they leave hospital. It is important to keep these appointments, even if your child seems well.
  • Both you and your child should wash your hands well to stop the spread of germs,

For more information on keeping your child healthy, click here.

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