Poliomyelitis, or polio, is a highly infectious viral disease mainly affecting infants. Read the article to know about causes, symptoms & treatment of baby polio.
Polio in Babies
In their early years, a child is exposed to the risk of developing serious ailments that can last for a lifetime and in certain cases prove fatal too. Educating yourself on the signs of possible illness in babies and the various vaccinations can outweigh all risks and ensure your baby has a healthy and happy childhood. Vaccinations today are considered as one of the safest and the easiest ways to deflect any possible threats to your child’s health. Immunizing your baby can be a life savior for your little one. Polio is certainly a big example on how immunization practice has helped to avert a grave disease among kids today. Polio has been wiped out of most countries with only a few developing nations facing its threat now. For this, babies are now being given routinely polio vaccines to ward off any possible threat to their health. However, due to polio being almost eliminated now, most parents often do not realize how important it is to vaccinate their little one against this disease. Polio is a serious life crippling ailment and if not taken care of, it may show up as an ultimate danger to your child’s life.
Your Baby & Polio
Polio is a highly contagious viral illness that can induce graver health complications like paralysis, respiratory disorders and even death. A person exposed to polio may not reveal any serious symptoms initially. However, at times polio virus can show flu-like indications in non-paralytic form and a much graver symptom in paralytic polio. In paralytic polio, the polio virus attacks the central nervous system, crippling the entire system and at times proving fatal. Anybody suffering from paralytic polio may lose the ability to use one or both the limbs, and face complications while breathing. The rate of recovery depends from person to person, but people afflicted with polio will complain of weakness in their arm and leg for their entire life. Also the chance of recuperating from paralytic polio is quite low.
Given that polio can have life threatening complications, it is surprising to note that most people infected with the disease never realize that they are affected. People suffering from non-paralytic polio or abortive poliomyelitis may reveal the usual symptoms of viral illness like fever, sore throat, headache, vomiting, malaise, back pain, neck pain, pain or stiffness in limbs, muscle spasms and even meningitis. Paralytic polio, which is a more serious but rare form of this disease shows initial symptoms of fever and headache and other signs of non-paralytic polio in the beginning. However, later signs like loss of reflexes, severe muscle aches or spasms, loose and floppy limbs might show up as the infection progresses. Paralysis may hit all of a sudden.
- Polio is caused by a virus that lives in the throat and intestinal tract. It primarily spreads through human feces and thrives in areas with poor sanitation.
- It can also be transmitted through throat secretions.
- People with weak immune system and those who haven’t been immunized are likely to catch poliovirus, if exposed to infected person or contaminated surroundings.
- Poliovirus spreads itself through contaminated water, food, or even through direct contact with the infected person.
- Due to the highly contagious nature of the virus, people infected with it can continue to spread the virus weeks on through their feces even after the disease has been detected.
Anyone who has not been immunized against the disease has the maximum chances of acquiring it. Expecting mothers, young infants and children and adults with fragile immune systems living in unhygienic conditions and in areas without regular or nonexistent immunization programs, are potent victims of poliovirus. If you have not been immunized against polio, here are some things to watch out for:
- Do not travel to areas where polio is common or has recently suffered an epidemic.
- Avoid being in direct contact with someone who is infected with poliovirus.
- Do not deal with lab specimens containing poliovirus.
- You need to be careful if you have undergone tonsillectomy.
- Stay away from doing any taxing physical activity once exposed to poliovirus as it might further depress your immune system.
Paralytic polio may have grave consequences like paralysis, disability, and deformities of the hips, ankles and feet in children. Although they may be corrected with surgeries or therapies, it may not be possible in areas where polio is still prevalent.
Polio can be easily diagnosed by following symptoms like back stiffness, abnormal reflexes, and difficulty swallowing and breathing. A stool test or samples of throat secretions and cerebrospinal fluids may be checked to confirm the presence of poliovirus in the patient.
- Polio is untreatable once infected and hence the prime focus of a treatment is usually aimed on offering comfort, quick recovery and averting further complications.
- The patient should be given complete bed rest.
- A nutritious diet is strictly advised.
- Antibiotics are usually prescribed to deal with secondary infections.
- Analgesics are advised to relive pains.
- Portable ventilators to help in comfortable breathing.
- Physiotherapy to avoid deformity and loss of muscle function.
Apart from improving public sanitation and maintaining personal hygiene, another successful way to put a stop to this disease is through polio vaccine. OPV (oral polio vaccine) and IPV (inactivated poliovirus) is effective against polio and offers resistance to people with weakened immune system. However IPV is not recommended for anyone who is allergic to antibiotics streptomycin, polymyxin B and neomycin. If you or your child experiences an allergic reaction after any shot, get medical help immediately. The common symptoms of allergy are high fever, breathing disorder, weakness, wheezing, skin rashes, rapid heart rate, swelling of the throat, dizziness and unusual paleness. Polio vaccine is normally given to your baby together with other vaccinations, including diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis (DTaP); hepatitis B-Haemophilus influenzae type b (HBV-Hib); and pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV).