Learn About Tremors and Tics in Children

If your child sometimes shakes during everyday activities, it could be a sign of a tremor, which if she is otherwise healthy and growing and developing normally, is not necessarily a sign of any kind of serious disorder.

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Tremors in Children

There is a condition called familial tremor, in which involuntary shaking runs in the family.​ Children can also have an essential tremor or shakes for which the cause is unknown.

How common are essential tremors in kids? It is thought that up to 5% of people have essential tremor and one study found that essential tremors commonly started as early as 8 years old.

Having a tremor can also be a side effect of some medications and certain metabolic disorders, like hyperthyroidism and hypoglycemia. In general, you would usually expect your child to also have other symptoms if a specific medical problem was causing her hands to shake.

Tics and Twitches

In addition to tremors, children can commonly have tics. Although many parents have a first thought that their child must have Tourette's syndrome or another condition if their child has a tic, it is much more common to have a simple transient tic disorder.

Children with a transient tic disorder typically:

  • Make sudden, brief jerky movements of their arms
  • Blink their eyes repeatedly
  • Raise their eyebrows
  • Shrug their shoulders
  • Bite their lip
  • Turn their head

In addition to these types of involuntary motor tics, other children may clear their throat or make specific sounds (vocal tics). These tics are often so subtle that other people don't notice them, although parents typically do as they see them so often. As the name suggests, transient tics only last a short time, typically less than about three months.

If tics last much longer than three months or become more complex, an evaluation for Tourette's syndrome might be a good idea.

Be aware that tics and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms that start suddenly or worsen following a strep throat infection could be a sign of a condition called pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with Streptococcal infections (PANDAS).

Diagnosis and Treatment

A visit to your pediatrician would be a good idea so that you can have your child evaluated. Most importantly, an evaluation will help you figure out if what she is doing is really even a tic or tremor.

A physical examination, including a complete neurological exam, can help to figure out what is causing your child's tics or tremors. A pediatric neurologist can also be helpful if she is really having tremors or persistent tics, although children with transient tics and essential and familial tremors often don't need any kind of treatment.

Tremors can sometimes be treated with beta-blockers if they do cause a problem later on, like if it causes difficulty writing because her hands shake too much.

Frequently Asked Questions

How are tremors in children treated?

Teaching children to adapt behaviors and using physical therapy to help them control their movements may reduce tremors. If you’re able to identify foods that aggravate tremors, avoid those triggers, and use relaxation therapy to reduce stress. If necessary, certain medications can be prescribed to reduce symptoms, including anticonvulsants and beta blockers. 

Why would a teenager’s hands shake uncontrollably?

There could be several reasons for the hand tremors. Your pediatrician to should do a full physical and blood tests to check for conditions such as:

 Can toddlers develop tremors after hitting their head?

Yes. Post-traumatic tremors can occur after a head injury. The seriousness of the tremors depends upon how hard children hit their head. Children who lose consciousness are at a greater risk for developing tremors.

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Article Sources
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  4. National Institute of Mental Health. PANDAS—questions and answers. Updated 2019.

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Additional Reading
  • Jankovic, Joseph MD; Essential Tremor Among Children. PEDIATRICS Vol. 114 No. 5 November 2004.