Rabies is a viral infection occurring in specific warm-blooded animals. This infection attacks the central nervous system, proving fatal if left untreated. When it comes to this serious infection, knowing the signs, symptoms, and treatment in children is highly important.
While rabies is most commonly found in animals such as foxes, bats, and skunks, it can also occur in cats, dogs, and horses.
Rabies spreads through the saliva of infected animals, which can be contracted through a bite, scratch, or lick. Children can easily be infected with rabies unknowingly, especially because animals lick their paws and spread the infectious saliva.
This viral infection can enter the body through cuts, scrapes, or the eyes and mouth.
Signs and Symptoms
It can take anywhere from a few days to months before a child begins showing signs of rabies. The first signs may include a headache, fever, and a decrease in appetite. There may also be itching, numbness, tingling, or pain near the site of an infected wound.
The first stage overall may resemble other common health conditions. This means paying close attention to any wounds on your child or possibly infected animals plays a big part in getting a diagnosis.
The second stage is when rabies becomes an obvious possibility. Symptoms of rabies in this stage include:
- Difficulty swallowing, including saliva
- Paralysis/loss of muscle movement
The common term “foaming at the foam” comes from the symptom of not being able to swallow. Saliva may build up in and around the mouth. If this happens, consult a medical professional immediately.
Because rabies in children is such a serious condition, parents should be sure to have their children vaccinated. There are multiple rabies vaccines that have been proven to be both safe and effective. Vaccinating your pets is a good precaution to take, as well.
Once the symptoms of rabies begin to occur, there may not be a viable treatment. If treated soon after exposure to the virus, chances of survival are higher.
Infected children can undergo a 2-week treatment of the rabies vaccine, as well as a dose of immune globulin. This treatment is only effective if done shortly after exposure, not after symptoms begin to show.
The rabies virus is not an easy infection to diagnose. If you suspect your child may have contracted rabies, immediately seek medical care for testing.
There is no single test alone that can tell for certain if a child has been infected. Multiple tests can be done on saliva, blood, spinal fluid, and a skin biopsy. A test can also be done on the animal that has bitten or scratched your child, which will give results within a few hours.
The uncertainty that comes with not knowing can lead to a fatality, so keeping an eye on both your child and surrounding animals is crucial. Remember to stay safe around animals and never leave your child unattended with pets.
If you have questions about the signs, symptoms, and treatment of rabies in children, get in contact with one of our trusted pediatricians.