TB (Tuberculosis) in Children- Signs,Treatment & Prevention of TB (Tuberculosis) in Kids

TB (Tuberculosis) in Children- Symptoms,Treatment and More

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Mahesh Patil (Paediatrician)
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Tuberculosis is a worldwide epidemic, with over ten million people being infected annually. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that more than two billion people around the world carry the TB bacteria in its dormant form. With such bleak statistics, are our kids susceptible to the disease and if so, then how do we protect them? These are some of the questions that we will be answering in this article.

What Is Tuberculosis (TB)?

Tuberculosis or TB is a disease that is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium Tuberculosis. It is highly contagious and spreads from person to person through the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs. It primarily affects the lungs, although it can spread to other parts of the body as well, such as the kidney and brain.

Tuberculosis is classified into different types based on the organs they attack.

  • Pulmonary: This type of TB primarily affects the lungs.
  • TB Meningitis: This TB targets the central nervous system.
  • Osteal TB: This variant of TB affects the bones.
  • Lymph Node: This TB affects the lymph nodes.

A new phenomenon is the Multi Drug-resistant tuberculosis or MDR TB. Governments across the world have done their best to eradicate TB on a war’s footing by providing for cheap medicines. Unfortunately, many patients don’t stick to the medication regime and stop using them as soon as they feel better. This strengthens the surviving bacteria as they grow resistant to the drugs, making treatment difficult.

Stages of TB in Kids

Childhood Tuberculosis is like Tuberculosis in adults and can be divided into three stages, which are:

1. Exposure

This is the initial phase when the bacterium enters the child from an infected individual.

2. Latent TB Infection

This is the dormant phase when the child doesn’t display any of the symptoms, nor are they infectious. The health of the immune system has a major role to play during this period as people with a strong immune system can fight off the infection. Studies suggest that as many as two billion people have latent TB.

3. TB Disease

Also known as the active phase, this is when the bacteria start causing harm to the various tissues and organs of the body.

Causes of TB in Kids

Pulmonary tuberculosis in children is caused by Mycobacterium Tuberculosis, a bacteria that is drawn to organs like lungs and kidneys. The infection can spread from one infected person to others through the air.

Who Is At Risk of Getting TB

While there may be many kids who have latent TB, the risk of it developing into active TB becomes more with children who have:

  • A compromised immune system, such as those who have the HIV virus. A weak immune system can’t fight off the bacteria.
  • Prolonged exposure to a member of the family who is suffering from TB.
  • Children with severe malnutrition have weak bodies which are incapable of fighting off the TB bacteria.
  • Children below the age of five have a relatively poor immune system and are susceptible to getting active TB.
  • Children who have not been immunised (including the BCG vaccine which is usually given at birth itself).

Symptoms of TB in Children

Once TB becomes active, the symptoms displayed include:

  • A persistent cough which may contain blood.
  • Weight loss greater than 10% due to poor appetite even though the diet has not changed.
  • Mild grade fever (generally in the evenings), chills, and night sweats.
  • Overall weakness.

Diagnosis of TB in Children

Diagnosis of TB in Children

If the above symptoms continue for more than a week, the doctor may advise you to take a Mantoux Tuberculin Skin TB Test for the child. This test involves inserting a small amount of the TB antigen to the skin, usually in the forearm. If there is a red bump after two days, it is a confirmation of TB. This test is the standard test that is conducted as part of the screening process. Unfortunately, it does not provide information as to how long your child has been suffering from TB. It is also unable to detect latent TB. A chest radiograph may be done as a follow-up test to confirm the presence of TB. This test is an age-old technique which is prone to give false-positive results as literally everyone, especially in India, is vaccinated with BCG which is nothing but a controlled form of TB infection, to help develop immunity. Nowadays, diagnosis is based on testing of sputum sample or PCR test of a blood sample for correct diagnosis.

Treatment of TB in Children

Treatment for TB must begin immediately after the diagnosis has been made. The four TB drugs used for the primary form of tuberculosis, which is sensitive to all standard TB drugs, include Isoniazid, Rifampicin, Pyrazinamide and Ethambutol. Usually, a sensitivity pattern test is done to determine drugs to be given for the successful treatment of TB bacteria. The time taken for treatment varies upon when the antibiotics have been initiated, the resistance of bacteria to standard drugs, and the organ affected. Under no circumstances should medication be stopped as this could make the bacteria drug-resistant. Drug-resistant tuberculosis is harder to treat and would take a longer time to cure.

Home Care for Children Infected With TB

Home Care for Children Infected With TB

Home care will have to be a two-pronged strategy, where one, you will have to prevent the spread of disease, and two, implement steps to control the bacteria.

To prevent the spread of the disease:

  • Don’t Send the Child to School: Due to the contagious nature of TB, it makes sense not to send your child to school during the initial part of the active phase of treatment as other children could get infected. After three weeks of appropriate treatment, the patient is non-communicable, i.e. he doesn’t spread the infection.
  • Well-Ventilated Home: Adequate cross-ventilation of the house prevents the TB bacteria from being spread within the household.
  • Make Your Child Wear a Mask When in Contact With Others: When the child is not alone, a mask can be used as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of TB. To make your child feel comfortable, other family members can also wear a mask.
  • Use of Tissues: To avoid spreading the disease, your child can use tissues to cover his mouth. Once he has enough practice, he can use tissues when he’s in a public place and stop using a mask. Make sure to dispose of masks and used tissue with all due precautions.

To help control the bacteria:

  • Oranges: Oranges contain Vitamin C, which has been known to damage the DNA of Mycobacterium Tuberculosis.
  • Plenty of Sleep: Sleep is vital to recovering from TB as it helps bolster the immune system, which can then fight off the bacteria.
  • Exercise: Studies have found that regular exercise helps boost the immune system and enables it to fight the tuberculosis bacteria. However, one needs to be aware that too much exercise at this point may be counter-productive as you could collapse from exhaustion.
  • Probiotics: One can consume foods like yoghurt, dark chocolate and cheese as they contain probiotics. Studies have shown that probiotics have been known to wipe out large colonies of the TB bacteria.
  • High Energy Diet: As TB is a debilitating disease, it is necessary to boost one’s nutrition by providing a high energy diet that includes dry fruits, dairy products, eggs, and meat.

Herbal Remedies for a Child Infected With Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis can be fatal if proper treatment is not taken. Therefore, your child cannot stop taking his medication while trying out the below herbal remedies. You also need to check with the doctor before trying out these remedies.

1. Garlic

GarlicGarlic contains allicin and ajoene, both of which are known to inhibit the growth of Mycobacterium. While allicin deprives bacteria of free radicals, ajoene has a negative effect on the bacteria’s ability to have a fully formed cell structure.

2. Green Tea

Green TeaGreen Tea has a high number of polyphenols that mitigate the growth of tuberculosis bacteria. Not only does this arrest the growth of the TB bacteria, but it also prevents it from spreading to other parts of the body.

3. Indian Gooseberries

Indian GooseberriesIndian Gooseberries have twin benefits for a person recovering from TB as they help alleviate the symptoms as well as fight off the bacteria. This is because of their anti-inflammatory and bactericidal properties.

4. Turmeric

TurmericStudies show that the properties of curcumin, a substance found in turmeric, help in the activation of macrophages, a type of immune cells. These macrophages have been able to successfully destroy all TB bacteria in lab conditions. Some scientists are convinced that turmeric might even be able to combat the deadly Multi-Drug Resistant TB.

How to Prevent Your Children from Getting TB

The risk of activating the TB bacteria increases when the immune system is compromised. Thus, the best form of protection then becomes eating foods that help improve the immune system. These include:

  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D, found in fish, eggs and cheese, helps in the upkeep of the immune system. As the TB bacteria is more likely to become active in people with a poor immune system, Vitamin D can help prevent TB in children.

How to Prevent Your Children from Getting TB

  • Iron-rich Food: Iron is found in food items such as broccoli, chicken, salmon and spinach. Iron is an immunity booster as it promotes the proper growth and functioning of the lymphocytes or white blood cells.

When to Call Your Doctor

Keep a watchful eye to see if your kids are displaying any of the symptoms mentioned above. Most of the symptoms listed, like fever, weakness and cough, can easily be those of a common cold. However, if they persist for more than a few days, take the child to the doctor immediately.

Tuberculosis is widely prevalent around the world, and the risk of fatality is high, especially in young children below the age of five. However, early and consistent treatment has a very good response, with most children recovering in a couple of months.

Also Read: 13 Home Remedies For Cold And Flu In Babies & Kids

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