TB (Tuberculosis) In Children - 3 Causes, 11 Symptoms & 2 Treatments You Should Be Aware Of

tuberculosis or tb in children

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Tuberculosis – or TB, as it is widely known – in children is a lethal disease. It needs to be diagnosed and treated immediately, as it can permanently affect the lungs.

What Is Tuberculosis?

TB is a chronic bacterial infection affecting lungs and sometimes, other organs like kidneys, lymph glands, brain or spine also get involved.

  • TB bacterium spreads through air when an infected person sneezes, coughs, speaks, laughs or sings
  • However, repeated exposure to germs is required for a person to get infected. So, this is not an easy infection to catch!
  • The germs are not transmitted through personal belongings like bedding, clothing, drinking glass, handshakes, toilet or other item an infected person has touched. It is purely an air-borne disease.

[ Read: Bacterial Infection In Children ]

There is a difference in TB infection and TB disease.

  • People infected with TB bacteria never develop active TB, but remain in latent TB stage.
  • When their immune system gets weak at any s
    tage of their life, they develop active TB disease.

Very young children often have weak immune system as they are growing and so, if they were infected by this bacteria in their infancy, they get easily get the disease itself while growing up.

Causes Of Tuberculosis In Children:

Children generally contract TB from adults by inhaling bacteria.

  1. Children do not get infected by being with other children with this disease! This is because their mucous rarely contain the bacteria and their cough is not strong enough to spray droplets into the air.
  2. When a child inhales TB bacteria, it settles and develops in the lungs.
  3. The bacteria then will move through the bloodstream to the kidneys, brain and spine; this spreading is prominent in toddlers and children as compared to the adults.

[ Read: Cough In Children ]

Symptoms Of Tuberculosis In Children:

Different symptoms are seen in children depending on the age of the affected child. Some of the common symptoms of TB in children include:

  1. Cough
  2. Chest pain
  3. Poor growth
  4. Loss of appetite
  5. Nausea
  6. Fatigue
  7. Fever
  8. Chills
  9. Swollen glands
  10. Sweating at night
  11. Unintended weight loss

[ Read: Sickle Cell Anemia In Children ]

Diagnosis Of Tuberculosis In Children:

Your doctor might advise for TB test if your child looks unhealthy, has repeated chest infections, fever, not gaining enough weight and is finding hard to breathe. The test recommended for TB include:

1. Quantiferon Gold Blood Test:

This is a blood test which gives details about a person’s immune system reaction towards TB bacteria. The result of this test will reveal whether the person is infected with TB bacteria.

2. Tuberculin Skin Test:

This test is done to see whether the child is affected with TB bacterium. To test this, a small amount of chemical is injected in the forearm’s skin through the scratch. If there is a swelling in 2-3 days, this denotes presence of Mycobacterium in child’s body.

3. Chest X-ray:

This test will reveal the damage that has happened in the child’s body due to TB.

4. Cough Examination:

The child’s cough will be checked for presence of TB bacteria in a child.

Periodic Testing For TB:

Symptoms of TB are quite varied in children, though, some with TB will have no symptoms at all. This is why periodic testing is highly recommended. To test for TB in children, American Association of Pediatrics recommends:

1. Immediate Testing:

  • If the child’s X-Ray looks like TB.
  • If child shows TB symptoms.
  • If the child has been exposed to the bacterial germs in the past five years.
  • If the child hails from a country where TB is prevalent.

[ Read: Kidney Stones In Children ]

2. Yearly Testing:

  • If the child is infected with HIV.
  • If the child is in detention facility.