Encephalitis in Children: Prevention, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Encephalitis, while rare, is a very dangerous disease that can lead to coma, or worse, death. Children are at greater risk of developing this condition, so it is only a must for parents to know what they can do to lower this risk.

Can Encephalitis be Prevented?

Unfortunately, encephalitis is a condition that cannot be prevented. However, there are several things that can be done in order to avoid the health problems that can result in a person developing this disease, which is an inflammation of the brain. As some of the most common causes of encephalitis are preventable diseases often acquired during childhood, an effective way to lessen the risk of acquiring it is through immunization and vaccination.

As a parent, you should have already understood the benefits of having your child vaccinated against the most common, yet oftentimes, deadly diseases. With this being pointed out, you should make certain that your child gets all the necessary vaccines. You should also make sure that you follow the immunization schedule that has been recommended by the primary health care provider of your son or daughter. It is also a must for you to let your kids know about the dangers of being in contact with a person who is suffering from this deadly condition.

Since encephalitis can be spread through insect bites, particularly by mosquitoes, you should tell our kids that:

• They should avoid staying outdoors during times when mosquitoes are highly active (dawn and dusk). If they are or they have to, make sure that they properly protected.

• They should make it a habit to wear protective clothing including long pants and long-sleeve shirts.

• They should always apply insect repellent, especially if they are going to stay outside for a long period of time.

To further empower your efforts of preventing diseases that can lead to encephalitis through mosquitoes, it is a must that you make your home safer by eliminating all standing water near and around it. Items such as buckets, flower pots, tire swings, and birdbaths are all favored grounds of mosquitoes for breeding, so make sure that you regularly have them drained of water.

You should also know that there are a number of organic and non-toxic mosquito repellents and sprays available in the market. Research them to find out which ones are highly rated by other consumers, especially by other parents, so that you can make certain they are effective in killing mosquitoes but are still safe for human use.

Diagnosing Encephalitis in Children

There are several methods that health care professionals make use of when diagnosing encephalitis. Some of the most common that are also used in children include the following:

• Imaging Tests – Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computed Tomography (CT) scans, both of which are used to examine the brain for any signs of inflammation, swelling, bleeding, and other abnormalities.

• Electroencephalogram (EEG) – Used to record electrical signals being processed in and by the brain, so that abnormal brain waves can be checked.

• Blood Tests – Used to establish the presence and existence of viruses or bacteria in the blood, as well as if antibodies are being produced by the patient’s body in response to germs attacking.

• Lumbar Puncture – Also known as spinal tap, lumbar puncture is a medical procedure wherein the cerebrospinal fluid is examined for any possible signs of infections and abnormalities.

Available Treatment Options for Encephalitis

For children who are suffering from a very mild case of encephalitis, monitoring can be done at home. However, you should know that most children who have this condition should be taken care of by medical professionals, which means that they should be hospitalized. In fact, most children who have encephalitis are hospitalized in the intensive care unit (ICU).

The main reason for this is because doctors are going to have to monitor their vital signs on a regular basis. Constant checks on their blood pressure, breathing, body fluids, and heart rate should be done to see if further swelling of the brain is taking place or not. Since establishing this can only be done through specialized equipment, your child being in the hospital and in the presence of medical experts can help prevent any more swelling of his/her brain.

You should also know that antibiotics are not normally used as a treatment for many types of encephalitis, seeing that these drugs are ineffective against viruses. There are a number of antiviral medications, though, that can be given to children suffering from some other forms of encephalitis, such as the one caused by the virus known as the herpes simplex virus. Some doctors may also administer Corticosteroids in order to help reduce the severity of swelling in the brain.

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