Polio In Children - Causes, Symptoms, Treatment And Vaccination

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Is your child complaining pain or stiffness in the arms and legs? Is your child down with fever and fatigue? If you nodded along anxiously, your dear little one might be suffering from polio. You need to seek medical assistance as soon as possible to help your child lead an independent and happy life. Read our post to learn causes, types, symptoms, and treatments for polio in children.

What Is Polio?

Polio, medically popular as poliomyelitis, is a contagious disease that occurs due to a virus that attacks the nervous system. Children below five years are more prone to the virus. According to World Health Organization (WHO), one child among 200 polio infected children suffers from permanent paralysis. However, polio vaccines have effectively eradicated the hazardous ailment (1).

[ Read: Common Vaccines For Children ]

Types Of Polio In Children:

There are total three types of polio that a child can suffer. Find them below.

  • Subclinical: Nearly 98% of polio patients suffer from the subclinical type of polio. Subclinical type doesn’t affect the central nervous system i.e. brain and spine of the child.
  • Non-paralytic: Non-paralytic form also doesn’t affect the central nervous system, and its symptoms are quite mild. The child suffering from non-paralytic type doesn’t get paralyzed.
  • Paralytic: Paralytic polio is the most severe and rarest type that results in complete or partial paralysis. In paralytic polio, there are three types, namely spinal polio, bulbospinal polio, and bulbar polio.

Causes Of Polio In Children:

Poliovirus transmits from an individual to other through the fecal matter. Children and individuals residing in areas with unhygienic, sanitary conditions are more vulnerable to polio. The virus can spread through contaminated water and food or coming in direct contact with an infected individual. Young children, pregnancy women, and individuals with weak immune system are more susceptible to the ailment (2).

[ Read: Causes Of Meningitis In Children ]

Symptoms Of Polio In Children:

Polio symptoms in children vary according to the types. Find below symptoms of each type of polio.

Symptoms Of Sub-Clinical Polio:

Subclinical polio symptoms last for about 72 hours. Symptoms include:

  • Mild fever
  • Headache
  • Red, sore throat
  • Vomiting
  • General discomfort

[ Read: Symptoms Of Hepatitis In Children ]

Symptoms Of Non-Paralytic Polio:

Non-paralytic polio symptoms last for a couple of days or weeks. Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • A sore throat without any upper respiratory infection
  • Abnormal reflexes
  • Problems while breathing and swallowing
  • Pain or stiffness in leg and arm
  • Muscle spasms
  • Pain and stiffness in back and neck

Symptoms Of Paralytic Polio:

Symptoms of paralytic polio include:

  • Severe muscle spasm and pain
  • Loss of reflexes
  • Deformed limbs
  • Loose and floppy limbs
  • Sudden paralysis (3)

[ Read: Muscular Dystrophy In Children ]

Treating Polio In Children:

Even though there is no cure for polio, doctors treat the symptoms of the ailment. Some of the treatments include:

1. Let The Child Have Rest:

Having sufficient rest helps alleviate the weakness, fever, and general discomfort that the child suffers. Make sure your child doesn’t perform high-energy involving activities.

2. Antibiotics And Painkillers:

The doctor may prescribe appropriate painkillers to help your infected child obtain relief from muscle aches, muscle spasms, and headaches. If your child suffers from any urinary tract infection, the doctor may prescribe effective antibiotics to cure it.

3. Physical Therapy:

Physical therapy can mitigate muscle pain substantially. You can use warm towels and heating pads to alleviate muscles spasms and aches. Also, physical therapy treats breathing and pulmonary problems effectively. The therapy promotes pulmonary rehabilitation and enhances the child’s pulmonary endurance. Physical therapy also helps the child walk normally.

4. Mobility Device And Ventilator:

In extreme cases of polio, the child’s leg suffers great weakness that makes it difficult for the child to walk. In such circumstances, the doctor may recommend a mobility device, such as a wheelchair. If the child finds it difficult to breathe normally, the doctor may recommend portable ventilators as and when the need be (4).

Preventing Polio In Children:

With the onset of the effective polio vaccine, you can prevent the risk of polio in your dear little one. Make sure your child gets the polio vaccine at the right time after his birth to protect him from the viral infection (5).

Polio Vaccine Schedule For Children:

There are two types of vaccine that protect against polio – Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) and Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IAV). IPV is injected in either the arms or legs and OPV is administered orally. The IPV vaccine should be given as mentioned below:

  • A dose at two months
  • A dose at four months
  • A dose at 6-18 months
  • A booster dose at 4-6 years (6)

[ Read: Immunization Chart For Children ]

Side Effects Of Polio Vaccine In Children:

Children who get vaccinated for polio develop a sore spot in the area where the injection was given. Apart from this minor problem, there are no major side effects of this vaccine. Your baby will not show any signs of fever, motions, or vomiting after being vaccinated for polio.

What If There Is A Serious Reaction?

In case your child suffers from a high fever and exhibits behavioral changes or suffers from an allergic reaction, there are chances that the reaction occurs because of the vaccine.

Do not ignore the following symptoms:

  • Swelling on the throat and face
  • Hives
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Pain in the limbs
  • Fatigue and weakness

Polio causes paralysis that is usually permanent. Since the outcome of the disease is grave, immunization is a must. This is because there is no cure for polio; immunization is the only solution to treat polio.

These symptoms typically begin a few hours after the vaccination (7).

[ Read: MMR Vaccine For Children ]

What Should You Do If You Forgot/Miss The Polio Vaccine?

It may happen that you miss the dates and fail to get your child vaccinated. Under such circumstances, talk to your doctor and seek advice from him. The government typically arranges free polio immunization camps twice in a year. So, you can always get your child vaccinated at these government camps.

Polio has been eradicated from many countries, but there are still a few countries where children contract polio. Remember that a single virus is enough to restart the pandemic. Hence, it is wise you get your child vaccinated on schedule to avoid any complications.

[ Read: Symptoms Of Hives In Children ]

As a mother, we understand your concerns about the health and well-being of your child. Hope we have addressed most of your queries about polio vaccine for children here.

Did your child suffer from polio at any time? How did you treat it? Share your experience with the fellow moms. Leave a comment below.

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