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Sometimes children may get affected by nerve conditions, and Bell’s palsy is one such nerve condition that may occur in any child at any age. As a parent, you should be well-versed with any ailment that may affect your child. We recommend that you read this article and know why this condition occurs in children and what are its causes, symptoms, and the treatment options available.
What Is Bell’s Palsy?
The facial nerves may get inflamed due to various reasons and weaken the facial muscles. The weakened facial muscles thus may lead to facial paralysis and may result in partial face paralysis called Bell’s Palsy. This medical condition may make one side of the face to appear stiff or droopy. This sudden phenomenon may make it difficult to move the mouth, eyelids, or nose. Facial paralysis may happen due to various reasons but what leads to Bell’s Palsy, has still not been proven. A child of any age group may get affected with this condition. Most cases of this ailment subside within a few weeks, however, in some cases, this condition may become a lifelong condition.
What Causes Bell’s Palsy in Children?
The most evident reason that causes this condition is the inflammation of the facial nerves. This inflammation occurs due to various viral infections such as herpes zoster, herpes simplex, rubella, influenza, adenovirus, Epstein-Barr, and others. If your kid suffers from medical conditions such as diabetes, cold or flu, he may be at a higher risk of getting affected with this condition. Also, if your child has recurring bouts of Bell’s Palsy, there is a strong possibility that it may be due to hereditary conditions. If your kid suffers from facial trauma, ear infection, or Lyme disease then it may increase his chances of catching this viral infection, too.
Signs and Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy
The virus that affects the facial nerves may sometimes be so mild that it may be hard to notice any signs or symptoms of Bell’s palsy in a child. It is often seen that the virus passes before a kid starts showing the signs of the ailment. The symptoms may be sudden, in some cases, your kid may feel the pain behind or in the front part of the ears for a few days; or in some cases or just a few hours, before the ailment sets in. This infection usually sets on one side of the face only, and your child may exhibit slight or severe weakness. Your child’s mouth may sag or droop from one side. Some of the other symptoms of this condition include:
- A severe headache
- Dryness in the mouth due to lesser saliva
- Pain in the ear (on the affected side)
- Pain around the jaw
- Twitching in the eyes
- Inability to close or blink one eye
- Watering of the eye
- Facial twitching
- Taste buds may get affected
- May hear sounds louder than before
How Is Bell’s Palsy Diagnosed?
Your health care provider may examine your kid’s facial nerves and establish the condition. If your doctor feels the requirement to confirm the diagnosis, he may ask you to get some tests done for your child. This may be due to the fact that sometimes certain health conditions such as strokes, tumours, and other such conditions may cause the facial muscles to weaken. You may have to get a CT scan (computerized tomography), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or EMG (electromyography) to make the correct diagnosis.
Complications of Bell’s Palsy in Kids
Sometimes severe complications may arise because of Bell’s Palsy. In some cases, irreversible damages may occur to the facial nerves, and in some cases, partial or complete vision loss may happen, too. In cases where nerve fibres fail to develop well after the bout, involuntary movements of facial muscles may occur, for example, if a child makes the jaw movement, his eye muscle may move on its own or involuntarily.
Bell’s Palsy Treatment for Children
The treatment rendered for this condition may depend on how severe the symptoms are. The doctor may do a thorough check-up and establish the correct and most appropriate course of treatment for your kid. Some of the treatment options suggested are as follows:
- Anti-viral medicines
- Steroids – to reduce the facial inflammation
- Physical therapy – for stimulating facial nerves and muscles
- Moist heat treatment or analgesic – for relieving pain
Protect your child’s eyes from getting dry. For this, your doctor may prescribe eye drops or ointment and may even ask you to follow certain precautions. Some people may even consider alternative methods for treating this condition, but if there is no evidence or proof available than such treatments may cure this condition. If you wish you may opt for the following treatment options for curing facial paralysis in children, however, only after consulting with your doctor:
- Electrical stimulation
- Vitamin therapy
How to Help Your Child Cope with Bell’s Palsy
Your child may get tired of dealing with this condition as it can affect a child’s daily routine, making it harder for him to blink eyes, eat or even bathe – these may seem like a herculean task. Apart from dealing with physical discomfort, your kid may even have to bear the emotional trauma because his peers may not be able to understand this condition and may make fun of your kid or make him feel awkward in the class. It is very important to explain it to your child that this condition is temporary and soon he will become okay. You can converse with your child’s teacher and ask for help in explaining about your child’s condition other children. Your child may suffer from low self-esteem, and your love and support may help him overcome this situation. Some of the other ways of helping your child cope with Bell’s palsy are as follows:
- Ensure that your child does all the exercises suggested by the physical therapist for a speedy recovery.
- In case facial palsy in children causes any pain or discomfort you may give him ibuprofen or Acetaminophen. You may use a moist washcloth to relieve the pain in the jaw or face.
- Your kid’s affected eye needs deliberate care, and thus you need to teach your child to close his eyes to prevent any dryness or irritation. You may have to use lubricating drops to keep your child’s eyes moist. If the need arises, you may make your kid use the sunglasses, eye patches, or glasses too.
Bell’s palsy may affect your child emotionally more than it may affect him physically. Therefore, provide constant love and support to your child. If you feel or your child complains of increased discomfort or other abnormal symptoms, you should reach for medical assistance at once. Be cautious and keep this condition at bay.
Also Read: Encephalitis in Kids