Tuberculosis in Children – Is Your Child Under Risk?

Tuberculosis (TB) is an airborne bacterial infection which primarily affects the lungs. Although people mostly relate TB with adults, children are known to contract the disease too due to a number of risk factors. Studies conducted by the World Health Organization estimates that around 1 million children below the age of 15 are known to suffer from TB worldwide. An approximate 239,000 children die every year due to TB. Although TB is commonly believed to be prevalent in developing countries, paediatricians in Sharjah has listed a number of risk factors that can expose your child to this highly contagious disease –
  • Children living in a household with an adult having active TB
  • Children with weak immune systems
  • Children who visit a country where TB is endemic and have come in contact with people with the condition
  • Children in living in shelters
Contracting the disease A child gets the disease much similar to how an adult is affected, where they inhale TB bacteria in the air, released through coughing by someone having active TB. Once the bacteria inhaled reaches the child’s lungs, it can multiply and spread through the lymph vessels to lymph nodes in his/her body. As a result, the child’s immune system starts responding in a few weeks after contracting the disease. In most cases, the immune system successfully stops the TB bacteria from multiplying further. If it’s not strong enough to stop the bacterial multiplication, the child develops the disease. Children below the age of 5 are more susceptible to the development of TB. Paediatricians find that children develop TB disease within the first 2 years of first being infected. However, in some older children, TB remains latent and is reactivated in adulthood due to reinfection. The most common symptoms of TB in children include a cough, swollen glands, chills, weight loss, and fever.Diagnosis As children show less obvious symptoms of having TB, samples like sputum are usually difficult to be collected from them. So different techniques are used for diagnosis –
  • Clinical evidence which includes the study of medical history and physical examination
  • A non-microbiological diagnosis like tuberculin skin testing (TST)
  • Microbiological examination including testing of sputum samples, whenever available
Treatment and Prevention For latent TB, a child is given isoniazid for a course of 6 to 12 months. In the case of active TB, a child will have to take a combination of 3 to 4 medicines for half a year or more. Unlike adults, children show progress really fast. After two weeks of treatment, a child is usually non-contagious. However, paediatricians recommend a full course of the medication for completely curing the disease. For preventing your child from contracting the disease, makes sure that he/she is not under the risks stated above. If you are in doubt regarding your child’s health, contact your paediatrician in Sharjah immediately.
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