Parent alert! Strep infection causes mental illness?
STREP THROAT: Strep throat is extremely common and almost all school-age children get strep throat at some point in their lives. Up to 30% of children will show evidence by blood test of a recent streptococcal infection. It is characterized by a sore, red throat and when gone untreated, can sometimes lead to rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever is a disease in which the heart and joints become inflamed and a type of this fever with the most neurological symptoms is Sydenham’s chorea which may include poor muscle control, poor coordination, and awkward movements of the face, arms, and legs. However, these symptoms normally go away after a few weeks but parents should notify doctors if their child has a history of multiple strep throat infections or rheumatic fever so they can prevent relapses with a daily dose of antibiotics. (Source: www.adhd.com/au)
PANDAS: PANDAS stands for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcus and causes a range of behavioral and emotional problems. The bacteria associated with PANDAS is called Group A Beta-Haemolytic Streptococcus, which is the same bacteria associated with rheumatic fever hence the relation to strep throat. The disorder is categorized as one that affects children, but this does not mean that it is impossible for an adolescent or adult to develop the disorder. PANDAS is also rare so if a child gets strep throat that does not mean the disorder will definitely follow. Some of the behaviors caused by PANDAS are also normal behaviors for some children. The behaviors should become a concern when the child has a very episodic course of the behaviors (dramatic ups and downs) and seems to have strep throat shortly before or during the worsening behaviors. Children with PANDAS should take antibiotics for a short time as well as nutrient supplements that target brain structures. If PANDAS goes untreated and the child gets more strep infections, the recovery of the damage to the brain by attacking antibodies may not be complete and the child could develop a chronic psychiatric disorder. (Source: www.adhd.com/au)
BEHAVIORS TO LOOK OUT FOR: Since there is no definite test for PANDAS, parents should watch out for certain behaviors in their children that are odd or out of character, especially if they have experienced strep throat recently. Here are a few to look out for.
- Repetitive noises or vocalizations
- New onset bedwetting
* For More Information:
Michael A. Jenike, MD
Professor of Psychiatry
Harvard Medical School
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