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For the first few years, your baby’s immune system is still in the process of development. This makes your little one more susceptible to viral and bacterial infection. It is imperative to decrease your child’s exposure to disease-causing microorganisms in this period. Maintaining proper sanitary and hygiene conditions protects your baby from infections.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection which can be life-threatening for babies. Read on to find out more about typhoid in babies, its symptoms, causes, treatments and prevention.
What is Typhoid?
Salmonella Typhi (S. Typhi) is a type of bacteria from the family Salmonella (causes food poisoning), which causes typhoid fever. The bacteria lives in humans and is shed through a person’s urine or faeces. When the bacteria enters the body, it multiplies quickly and spreads into the body’s bloodstream. Typhoid fever in children can be caused due to negligent care and exposure to infected water and food. The symptoms seen are mild to severe and can disappear within 5 days after the treatment has begun. After recovery, your child could become a carrier of the bacteria, which means he can pass the disease to other people.
Causes of Typhoid in Babies
The Salmonella Typhi bacteria attacks the central circulatory system and starts to multiply. Typhoid is an extremely infectious disease, which spreads fast and can be caused by these major reasons:
- Food and water: Like cholera, typhoid is mainly transmitted through water and food. Babies contract the disease by consuming contaminated food or water.
- Carrier: Babies may become infected when a carrier or infected person touches them without washing their hands.
- Food preparation: Unhygienic meals or improper storage also leads to typhoid in babies.
- Stools: The typhoid bacteria is passed in the stools of the infected person and not washing hands after going to the toilet can lead to an infection.
While typhoid is common in children between the ages of two and five, toddlers and babies can also easily contract it. The symptoms seen in toddlers and babies can easily be confused with other illnesses. It is uncommon for solely breastfed babies to get infected as they gain immunity through their mother’s milk and are protected against contaminated food as they don’t consume it.
What Symptoms of Typhoid are Seen in Babies?
The symptoms of typhoid in babies develop within a week or two after your baby comes into contact with the contaminated drink or food. These symptoms can last for up to 4 weeks or longer. Typhoid signs in children or babies include:
- Persisting low-grade fever of 100.4 degrees F, which increases over time and that lasts for over three days
- In some babies, the fever has a pattern of climbing higher as the day passes, and eventually dropping by the morning.
- Abdominal and/or stomach pain. Sometimes this leads to body pain
- The baby feels uneasy, weak, tired and inactive
- Coated tongue
- Severe headache
- Diarrhoea or constipation
- Rose-coloured spots on chest after week 1, which maybe difficult to see initially
- Loss of appetite
- Loss in baby’s weight
These symptoms can range from mild to severe, on the basis of factors that include health, age and vaccination history.
How to Diagnose Typhoid?
Typhoid can be quite difficult to diagnose. The paediatrician will check for a slow heartbeat and a swollen spleen and liver is he/she suspects typhoid. It is likely that your baby’s blood will be tested and a stool sample will be sent to the lab. On arrival of these results, the doctor can confirm if your little one has typhoid.
Although there is a test called the Typhi-dot test, it isn’t used commonly. Instead, blood culture is used to diagnose the ailment. The results will take a while to arrive, which is why the paediatrician will also check the physical signs to rule out other infections such as dysentery, malaria or pneumonia.
While the blood and stool test results are awaited, it is likely that the doctor will prescribe antibiotics for your baby. Delaying medication or treatment strategies will increase the risk of developing complications.
When to Seek Immediate Care?
If your baby is showing signs of high fever, uneasiness, persistent vomiting and diarrhoea, you must take her/him to the doctor. Even if the symptoms are mild, it is advisable see a doctor to nip any infection in the bud.
Complications of Typhoid in Babies
If typhoid fever isn’t treated immediately, it can lead to several complications, especially if your child has been ill for over two weeks. When neglected for this long, the illness can also be fatal. Complications of typhoid in infants include:
- Bleeding in the intestines and stomach
- Shock and confusion
- Blood poisoning
- Infections in the kidney or gall bladder
- Cholecystitis or gall bladder inflammation
- Inflammation of the pancreas
- Myocarditis or the inflammation of heart muscles
- Inflammation of the valves and lining in the heart
Treating Typhoid in Infants
Once the doctor has confirmed the infection of the Salmonella Typhi bacteria in your baby, a list of antibiotics will be prescribed to kill thisbacteria. Treatment of typhoid fever in children will include administering these medicines for up to two weeks, or the duration it is prescribed for. It is advisable to not buy these antibiotics over the counter and self-medicate. The doctor’s prescription will ensure that your baby or toddler gets the right type of medication and the correct dosage based on the age and weight.
If your little one is severely ill and cannot eat or drink, the doctor will get him/her admitted in the hospital. Fluids, antibiotics, and nutrients will be given to your baby through a drip in the arm. However, most of the babies and toddlers can be taken care of at home during their recovery phase. It is essential to ensure that your little one is given the full course of antibiotics. While at home, your baby can recover faster if you follow these tips:
- Food and fluids: The typhoid fever will leave your baby devoid of essential fluids lost during sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea. So, ensure enough water is provided to the baby. The paediatrician might also suggest ORS or oral rehydration solution to replace the fluids your little one has lost. Although the baby might suffer a loss of appetite, it is essential that he/she gets regular nutrition to retain energy levels in order to recover. If your baby is still being breastfed, offer breast milk frequently, or let the baby nurse for as long as possible. For toddlers, meals must be broken down into smaller portions and distributed throughout the day.
- Rest: Your baby needs a lot of rest while recovering from the fever until the symptoms have completely passed. This helps the body become strong faster.
- Refreshing wash: If you don’t wish to bathe your baby every day during the illness, you must try to give a refreshing wash at least once a day. A sponge bath is also a preferred cleaning technique for your baby. Change clothing every day so your baby feels refreshed and clean.
Are There any Preventive Measures?
The Government of Indian along with the Indian Academy of Paediatrics has recommended a vaccine for the prevention of typhoid. It is administered to your baby between the ages of 9-12 months. Two booster injections are given in a span of two years, between 4 and 6 years. Although the vaccine is an important preventive measure, there are few other steps that help as well.
- Clean water: Ensure that your family and baby always drink and use clean water. Contaminated and unclean water is the key to most illnesses. Boil the water or filter it before consuming.
- Proper nutrition: There is no evidence that typhoid is transmitted through breast milk. Therefore, continue to breastfeed your baby. If your little one is older, provide varied, healthy meals that include proteins, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables with every meal. Avoid street vendors and food from outside.
- Hygiene: Your entire family must practice good hygiene and wash hands thoroughly with water and soap before eating, cooking, feeding the baby, after using the toilet, after touching pets, and after changing the baby’s nappy. Bathe the baby daily to keep the germs away. Keep the kitchen and surfaces clean and tidy and throw away expired food products.
What are the Typhoid Vaccines?
Typhoid is quite a common illness in India, Southeast Asia, and Papua New Guinea. If you are traveling to these countries or live in them, your baby could be at a greater risk of contracting this disease. The right type of vaccination will protect your baby from being infected with the Salmonella Typhi bacteria. Two types of typhoid vaccine for children are available:
- Injection: This type of vaccine is injected into the arms of children up to two years of age.
- Oral: Vivotif oral or other oral vaccines are given to children who are six years or older.
The vaccines offer protection to the child for up to three years. Ensure that your child is vaccinated during the initial years of development to avoid an infection.
If typhoid is diagnosed at the right time, your baby has a greater chance of recovery. When delayed, typhoid can lead to fatality. Ensure preventive measures are taken to keep the disease at bay so your little one can have a healthy childhood.