Tuberculosis and the BCG – A Parent’s Guide!
Tuberculosis is a serious but curable condition which is spread by tiny water droplets passing from one person to another usually by coughing or sneezing. It is the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis in water droplets passed in this way which cause the disease to spread. Whilst it is a contagious disease it usually requires prolonged exposure for one person to catch it from another. This means that whilst it is common for it to pass from one family member to another it is not common to catch it by passing someone on the street that has the disease. In Ireland the number of cases of TB has been falling (328 in 2014) and there were no cases in young children in 2014. The rate of TB in Ireland for 2014 was the lowest since surveillance started in 1998.
There are two types of tuberculosis (TB). One which is called latent TB which means you have the infection but are showing no symptoms. The other is known as active TB and will mean that you are displaying symptoms. Latent TB can become active TB. It can actually be months or years after contracting the disease that you begin to show symptoms of TB. The signs can vary from person to person and depend on where the infection is present. It is most common for the infection to affect the lungs but it can affect the digestive system, reproductive system, bones and joints, lymph glands or nervous system.
Possible Symptoms include:
• A persistent cough – lasting for longer than three weeks
• Blood in the mucus of a cough
• Lack of appetite
• High temperature
• Exhaustion and fatigue
• Weight loss
• Persistent pain in glands, stomach, bones or joints.
Treatment and Vaccination:
Tuberculosis is treated with various antibiotics and generally after a six month course of treatment people will make a full recovery. If your illness is resistant to certain antibiotics the treatment can take up to two years.
The BCG vaccine (Bacillus Calmette-Guérin) vaccine contains a weakened form of a bacteria which is related to the one which causes tuberculosis. This vaccine helps to offer protection by stimulating an immune response in your body which teaches your body how to fight off a real infection if one was to occur. The bacteria within the vaccine itself cannot cause tuberculosis.
The vaccine is given into the left upper arm and often causes a small red pimple to appear about 3-6 weeks after vaccination. This is completely normal and this pimple may or may not scab over. Your baby or child may have this pimple for several weeks. It is important not to pick at it or apply any creams or ointments to try to heal it even if it is weeping. You can cover it with a small dressing to protect it but there is no problem with bathing or showering after vaccination. Your child may be left with a small scar as a result of the vaccine. A minority of people may suffer an allergic reaction to the vaccine as with any injection and so it is important to discuss any swelling under your babies arm or any deep ulcers which develop with your doctor.
If your child is over six years of age and has not had the vaccination the HSE recommend a Mantoux test which will let you know if your child has been exposed to TB. It is a simple skin test and once the results come back a couple of days later negative then your child an receive the BCG.
Always check with your doctor to make sure that the BCG is safe for your baby to receive.
I hope this article has been informative and helpful – please don’t hesitate to get in touch by sending me a private message on the WonderBaba facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/wonderbabacare or by phoning me at Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy in Dublin 6 on 012600262. I’m always happy to help!