One in 10 tuberculosis patients is a child: IMA

One in 10 tuberculosis  patients is a child: IMA

A child with persistant high temperature and cough for over two weeks and a weight loss of more than 20 per cent could possibly be showing signs of pediatric tuberculosis, doctors warn. 

An estimated 10 per cent of the total incidences of tuberculosis are reported in children, according to statistics provided by the Indian Medical Association. Doctors say caregivers should look for some evident symptoms to catch the illness at the onset.

A child is most likely to infect TB between the age of one and four years when there is an increased risk of progression from infection stage to that of the disease, they explain. 

Dr Asha Benakappa, senior pediatrician at Vanivilas Hospital, says that on an average, the hospital gets about five to ten new cases of pediatric tuberculosis each month.

It is important to understand that the child would be infected only when it comes in contact with an infected adult, she added. “This usually spreads when a family member has the problem,” she said. “It is not something that spreads from one child to another.” 

Dr Benakappa further said that in case of children, the challenge begins at the diagnosis stage. In adults, the sputum examination—to detect and identify bacteria or fungi that infect the lungs or breathing passages—would confirm the presence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis—the bacterium that causes the infection. But in children, it grows complex.

“With children, especially those under five, it gets difficult. They would not even understand when they are asked to give out the sputum for examination,” she explained. 

She added that it was essential to take medications on time. “A few days after treatment begins, the patient tends to feel better,” she said. “But it is important to go ahead with the treatment and not discontinue midway.”

The discontinuation makes the microorganism drug-resistant. Besides, it is important to check the possibilities of other associated problems. “It is necessary to screen the child for HIV/Aids as there is a high risk of the same,” she said. 

Dr Sai Prasad T R, pediatric surgeon at the Columbia Asia Referral Hospital, said that it was essential to understand that extra care needed to be taken to avoid infections among those had been administered immunosuppressants.

“With cancer patients and those who have undergone organ transplants, the risk of contacting TB is higher,” he said. While the government provides medications free of cost, a significant number of patients discontinue the treatment, he lamented. 

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