Tuberculosis (TB) is a chronic bacterial infection that usually infects the lungs, although other organs are sometimes involved. TB is primarily an airborne disease (spread by air droplets from infected people when they cough or sneeze).
There is a difference between being infected with the TB bacterium without illness and having active tuberculosis disease.
There are three ways to describe the stages of TB. They are as follows:
The predominant TB bacterium is Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tuberculosis). Many people infected with M. tuberculosis never develop active TB. Those who do usually develop TB only in the lungs. However, in people with weakened immune systems, including those with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) or diabetes and those who are treated with medications that can weaken the immune system, such as corticosteroids and chemotherapy, TB organisms can overcome the body's defenses, multiply, and cause an active disease. Very young children are more likely than older children and adults to have TB spread through their bloodstream and cause complications, such as meningitis.
TB affects all ages, races, income levels, and both genders. Those at higher risk include the following:
Different symptoms of TB are present depending upon the age of the child affected. The following are the most common symptoms for TB. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of TB may resemble other lung conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's doctor for a diagnosis.
The TB bacterium is spread through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks, sings, or laughs; however, repeated exposure to the germs is usually necessary before a person will become infected. It is not likely to be transmitted through personal items, such as clothing, bedding, a drinking glass, eating utensils, a handshake, a toilet, or other items that a person with TB has touched. Adequate ventilation is the most important measure to prevent the transmission of TB.
TB is diagnosed with a TB skin test. In this test, a small amount of noninfectious testing material derived from the TB bacterium is injected into the top layer of the skin. If a certain size bump develops within two or three days, the test may be positive for tuberculosis infection. Additional tests to determine if a child has TB disease include X-rays and sputum tests.
TB skin tests are suggested for those:
Recommendations for skin testing in children, from the American Academy of Pediatrics are as follows:
Yearly skin testing:
Testing every 2 to 3 years:
Consider testing in children at ages 4 to 6 and 11 to 16 if:
Specific treatment will be determined by your doctor based on:
Treatment may include:
Patients usually begin to improve within a few weeks of the start of treatment. After two weeks of treatment with the correct medications, the patient is not usually contagious, provided that treatment is carried through to the end, as prescribed by a doctor.
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