World Polio Day: 5 symptoms of polio in children

As a parent, you must ensure that your child receives all necessary vaccinations on time. One of the most important is the polio vaccine to combat poliomyelitis or polio. It is a highly contagious viral disease that mainly affects children under the age of five. According to the World Health Organization, the virus is transmitted from person to person. This mainly happens through the fecal-oral route or through contaminated water or food, and then the virus multiplies in the intestine. From there, it can reach the nervous system and cause paralysis. Although India celebrated 12 polio-free years in January this year, you need to know everything to protect your child. On the occasion of World Polio Day, which falls on October 24, let us tell you about the signs of polio in children.

Common signs of polio in children

Polio is a viral disease that attacks the nervous system. Here are some symptoms:

1. Fever

Children can have a fever for many reasons. Sometimes this is due to climate change or the consumption of refrigerated foods or drinks. But sometimes a fever can be a sign of a health problem. Children with polio often develop high fever, which is usually one of the first symptoms, says Dr RD Srivastava, senior consultant and head of the department of pediatrics and neonatology at Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, New Delhi.

Children should be vaccinated against polio. Image courtesy: Shutterstock.

2. Fatigue

Children are generally full of life and energy. They run around and enjoy playing outdoor games. But if they feel general weakness and get tired easily, you should be careful.

3. Headaches

Headaches can be caused by many factors, including ice cream or frozen foods. It turns out that polio can also cause headaches, which may be a sign of a virus affecting the nervous system.

4. Neck and back stiffness

When we sit in front of a computer for too long, we end up with neck and back pain. In children, muscle stiffness or pain, especially in the neck and back, can be a symptom of polio.

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5. Muscle weakness or paralysis

According to Dr Srivastava, the hallmark of polio in children is muscle weakness. In severe cases, this can lead to paralysis, usually in the legs.

If your child has polio, he or she may also experience a sore throat, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, constipation, or abdominal pain.

The child is not interested in eating
Children may experience a loss of appetite if they have polio. Image courtesy: Adobe stock

Can polio be cured?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for polio, but it can be managed with supportive care, says Dr. Srivastava. This includes rest, pain relief, and physical therapy to maintain muscle strength. In some cases, respiratory support may be necessary for children with severe muscle weakness.

The main way to prevent polio is vaccination. Oral polio vaccine and inactivated polio vaccine are the ones used to immunize children against the virus. While inactivated polio vaccine is administered by injection, oral polio vaccine is administered by mouth. Additionally, practicing good hygiene, such as regular hand washing and avoiding open defecation, can help prevent the spread of the virus.

Global efforts to eradicate polio through vaccination campaigns have reduced the number of cases worldwide. According to the WHO, polio cases have declined by more than 99 percent since 1988. The numbers have fallen from around 350,000 cases in more than 125 countries to just six cases reported two years ago. So make sure your little one gets the polio vaccine before celebrating their fifth birthday.

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