Tuberculosis or TB spreads in children when an infected adult coughs, speaks or sings, while leaving bacteria in the air. These bacteria can get inhaled by kids. Most of the children get infected with M. tuberculosis, but might never have an active TB disease. However, the child might remain in a latent stage. Children who have tuberculosis and are younger than 12 years old can hardly infect other people. The reason behind this is that younger children tend to have less amount of bacteria in their mucus secretion. In addition, their cough generally does not spread germs as much as an adult. Onlymyhealth editorial team spoke to Dr. Davinder Kundra, Consultant, Pulmonology, HCMCT Manipal Hospitals, Dwarka, to know about the symptoms, causes and treatment of tuberculosis in children.
Tuberculosis symptoms in children
Some of the most common symptoms of tuberculosis in children are cough, fever, weight loss, decreased appetite, and even the growth of the child is hampered. In some cases children might also experience blood in cough, night sweat, lymph node swelling and chest pain. Children who have also developed some form of other underlying lung infection or poor lung condition may also experience constant wheezing.
Causes of Tuberculosis in Children
Tuberculosis is caused by a micro bacterial infection that spreads when the bacteria is released in the environment through tiny droplets by an infected person via cough. There are stages in which a child may develop this disease. These include:
Exposure: This is the first stage when a child is exposed to these droplets containing the bacteria.
Latent Tuberculosis: The bacteria enters the body and is deactivated for a while by the immune system. During this stage, the child shows no symptoms in the initial days but the bacteria has already entered the body.
Active Tuberculosis: The bacteria gets activated and slowly starts spreading. Children with low immunity system and who already have some other underlying disease are most likely to develop active tuberculosis as their immune system has become weak. Other causes, like HIV infections, cancer or its medication can also lower the immunity system of a child and can give rise to this stage.
Tuberculosis in kids treatment
The treatment of this condition in children is the same as the ones in adults. The only difference is that the doses of the medication vary. Once the child starts showing symptoms, we start with a proper diagnosis of the disease which even includes chest X-ray, Mantoux test and Sputum test. Based on the diagnosis and the severity of the disease, anti-tuberculosis treatment is initiated. Some children are unable to release cough out of their body and tend to swallow the cough inside. As a result, they are treated with Gastric lavage, a treatment that involves placing a tube through the mouth or through the nose into the stomach to take out the infection. After this, we send it for further analysis and molecular tests to find out any sign of the bacteria. How to take care:
- Parents must ensure that their child sticks to medication and treatment if diagnosed with TB
- Parents must also ensure that their child follows a healthy diet with lots of fruits as they have antioxidant effect and high protein food
- Children must also stay hydrated and must follow the immunization schedule
Tuberculosis or TB is an ongoing chronic condition, in which a person gets infected by bacteria. Mostly, it affects the lungs, however, other organs like the kidneys, and brain can also get compromised. Children can get infected by TB bacteria and still not contain the active disease. Timely diagnosis and treatment is important if a child or adult is experiencing the symptoms of tuberculosis.