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Child Has Strep Throat? You Need To Know About PANDAS

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As a parent, you're one of the first people to spot symptoms that something is wrong with your children's health. But sometimes, symptoms can be dismissed for bad behavior, especially after your child has strep throat. Here's what you need to know about if your child has strep throat.


PANDAS is pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections. It happens after a strep infection, like strep throat. It happens because when the strep bacteria invade the body, the bacteria mimic other cells in the body. So when the child's immune system releases antibodies, sometimes the antibodies also attack the normal cells. When this happens in the brain, it causes OCD and/or tic disorders, which are neuropsychiatric disorders in this type of case. This means that there is a problem with the nervous system and it's causing a mental illness.

The doctor can only diagnose a child with PANDAS if a sudden onset of neurological and neuropsychiatric symptoms that are dramatic and episodic and a positive strep culture. However, there are other symptoms that your child may have in addition to the criteria, including:

  • symptoms of ADHD, including inattention and fidgetiness
  • changes in mood
  • sleep disturbances
  • separation anxiety
  • bed-wetting
  • changes in motor skills, both fine and gross

This diagnosis should be made by a neuropsychiatrist. This is a doctor who deals with organic mental disorders, which means that the mental disorder is attributed to the nervous system instead of a functional mental disorder which is attributed to a psychological cause.

 Why It's Difficult for Parents to Realize

The episodic course of symptoms is what makes it difficult for parents to realize that something is amiss, but it's also what helps doctors reach a clinical diagnosis. It's important to understand that not all children who have OCD or tics have PANDAS. In OCD or tics that are not related to PANDAS, children have good and bad days, but the symptoms are generally relatively consistent.

In children with PANDAS, OCD or tics have a dramatically sudden worsening or onset of symptoms, followed by improvement that is slow and gradual. Children may seem like they are back to normal after an episode has run its course, which could last several months or several weeks, depending on the severity of the condition. However, with each subsequent strep infection they will likely have more episodes of worsening of symptoms. Therefore, subsequent strep throat prevention is important.

For more information, contact Burnsville Family Physicians or a similar organization.