Kids Health Info


  • Osteomyelitis is an infection in the bone. It usually affects a bone around the knee, hip or ankle.  It is caused by bacteria, often after a minor skin infection, cold or a puncture wound.  It is often hard to find out the exact cause.

    Signs and symptoms

    Your child may suddenly:

    • have swelling/redness, warmth or pain in the area;
    • not want to use the affected area;
    • have a temperature and generally look unwell.


    Your child's doctor may need to:

    • examine your child, especially the painful area;
    • order a bone scan (a special x-ray that involves an injection) as a plain x-ray will not show the osteomyelitis;
    • order a blood test.


    • Most children with osteomyelitis will need to be admitted to hospital.
    • They usually need an intravenous (IV) drip so that antibiotic treatment can begin.
    • They may need a plaster or splint to keep the area still.
    • Pain tablets may be given to help your child if they have pain.
    • Blood tests are taken to make sure the right antibiotic is being used and to make sure that the condition is improving.
    • Intravenous (IV) antibiotic treatment will continue until your child improves and their temperature is back to normal.
    • Once intravenous (IV) antibiotics have finished, your child will need to go on oral antibiotics (i.e. antibiotic tablets or syrup) for three to six weeks.
    • A few children may need longer treatment on IV antibiotics (four to six weeks); and sometimes your child might be discharged home while still having IV treatment.
    • Surgery may be required if antibiotic treatment is unsuccessful, but this is rare.

     At home care

    It is essential that your child takes the complete course of oral antibiotics that they are prescribed. Every single dose is important!

    If your child develops the following symptoms and you are worried contact your GP or the treating doctor:

    • diarrhoea;
    • a high temperature;
    • if any of the symptoms listed previously under signs and symptoms come back.


    Your child will be seen again  in the RCH Specialist Clinics about one week after going home.  You will need to come to the hospital three hours before your appointment with the doctor so your child can have a blood test to check on their progress.  The results of the blood test will then be ready for the appointment.

    If you are unsure when your child's appointment is booked for, please phone the Specialist Clinics appointments line on (03) 9345 6180.  Please phone this number if you need to change your child's appointment time.

    Key points to remember

    • Every child has a different response to treatment and this will affect the amount of time your child needs to stay in hospital.
    • Your child will need regular blood tests to watch their progress, even after they have gone home.
    • Follow up appointments are very important and your child must attend even if they appear to be well.

    For more information

    Platypus Ward - Surgical Care Unit (03) 9345 5432

    RCH fact sheets:


    Developed by RCH Orthopaedic Unit 2004.  Updated May 2010.

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This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.