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Essential Tremor in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 4, 2022.


An essential tremor

is uncontrolled muscle shaking that has no known cause. Your child's healthcare provider can diagnose essential tremor based on your child's signs and symptoms. Other tests may be used to make sure another condition is not causing the tremors.

Common signs and symptoms of essential tremor:

Signs and symptoms may be mild or severe. Tremors may happen when your child tries to hold still or when he is moving. Any of the following may get worse slowly, over time:

  • Hands or arms shake, especially when your child holds or reaches for objects
  • Voice quivers when your child speaks
  • Legs shake when your child stands still
  • Trouble controlling hands or arms, holding objects, or writing
  • Trouble doing daily activities such as brushing teeth or getting dressed
  • Head nodding or shaking your child cannot control
  • Shaking brought on by or made worse by stress, fatigue, or chemicals such as caffeine
  • A feeling of shaking or trembling inside, even if your child's body does not shake

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has new or worsening symptoms.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.


may not be needed. Depending on your child's age, severe tremors may be treated with any of the following:

  • Medicines may be given to control tremors so your child can do daily activities more easily. Medicines will not completely control or stop the tremors, but they may help.
  • Deep brain stimulation is a procedure used if other treatments do not control your child's tremors. Electric stimulation is given to parts of the brain that control movement. The stimulation stops those parts of the brain from working.
  • Surgery may be used if your child's tremors are severe and medicines have not helped. Surgery may be used to destroy part of your child's thalamus. The thalamus is a part of the brain that control movement and coordination.

Manage your child's symptoms:

  • Take your child to occupational therapy as directed. An occupational therapist can help your child find new ways to do daily activities. For example, your child may learn to use wrist weights during activities such as brushing teeth. The weights can help steady your child's arms and hands.
  • Have your child use assistive devices as directed. Weighted utensils can help your child control hand coordination while he eats. Adaptive equipment, such as a trackball mouse, for the computer can help make computers easier to use. It may also help to install voice recognition software on your child's computer. The software allows your child to talk instead of using the keyboard to type. A weighted pen or pencil may help your child write in school. Ask your child's healthcare provider or occupational therapist for more information on assistive devices.
  • Have your child wear clothing that is easy to put on and take off. Examples include shoes that do not need laces and shirts without buttons. A device is also available to help your child get buttons through the button holes.
  • Talk to teachers and officials at your child's school. Your child may have trouble writing in class or doing other classroom activities. Ask the teacher if a recording device can be used to take notes in class. Teachers may be able to help by letting your child take oral tests instead of written tests. Extra time for tests may also be helpful. School officials may be able to help with requests for alternate ways to take standardized tests. For example, your child may have trouble filling in bubbles on standardized test forms. Show your child how to use a bookstand to keep books steady.
  • Work with school officials and teachers to help your child's classmates understand essential tremor. This may help keep other students from teasing or bullying your child in school. Tell your child that it is important to talk with you about any problems with other students.
  • Do not let your child have caffeine. Caffeine can make tremors worse.
  • Ask about medicines. Some medicines can make tremors worse. An example is cold medicines. Talk to your healthcare provider about all the medicines your child takes.
  • Keep a record of your child's tremors. Include when the tremors happened, and how long they lasted. List anything you or your child think might have triggered the tremors or made them stop. It might be helpful to include any foods or drinks your child had that contained caffeine or were unusual for him or her. Bring the record with you to your child's follow-up appointments.
  • Help your child manage stress. Stress can trigger tremors or make them worse. Find ways to manage your child's stress, such as deep breathing or listening to music. Talk to your child's healthcare provider if your child needs help to control anxiety.
  • Talk to your adolescent about not smoking. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can make tremors worse. Ask your adolescent's healthcare provider for information if he or she currently smokes and needs help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before he or she uses these products.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Your child may be referred to a neurologist (nerve specialist). Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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