PANDAS is a rare and serious adverse immune condition. It may take numerous consultations with doctors and specialists and undergoing multiple tests to achieve the proper diagnosis.
I recently sat down with Elizabeth Harris on my podcast Rock Bottom Wellness to discuss her and her son’s long and difficult experience with this disorder. As her son’s physical symptoms were replaced by psychiatric symptoms, Elizabeth knew she had to use her two decades of experience in the field of wellness to save their lives.
What is PANDAS?
PANDAS stands for ‘Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections”. Quite the mouthful!
It is typically a children’s disorder where the streptococcal bacteria attack the cells in the brain and turn their immune system into overdrive. Because the cells are attacking the brain, neurological issues emerge.
What are the signs and symptoms?
The initial infection is a streptococcal infection. For Elizabeth’s son, it was a strep throat infection.
The onset of accompanying psychological symptoms is rather sudden, which include:
· Obsessive-compulsive behaviors
In the case of Elizabeth’s son, he would button and unbutton a shirt repeatedly, or he would ask to have his clothes dried or his toothbrush boiled multiple times.
· Increased behavioral issues
Your child may suddenly become hyperactive or have trouble paying attention, similar to ADHD.
They may also experience increased mood changes, temper tantrums, or emotional outbursts. You may see an increase in bullying behaviors, and they may have more issues at school.
· Sensory issues
Auditory or visual hallucinations may also happen. With Elizabeth’s son, he thought people were watching him through the windows, or that spiders were crawling on him that weren’t there.
How can you alleviate the symptoms?
To alleviate the symptoms and get on the path to wellness, you need to address two areas:
· Tackling the infection
With any strep infection, the first line of traditional treatment is antibiotics. Steroids may also be prescribed to treat the inflammatory responses in your child’s body.
The issue that arises with the mycoplasma pneumonia bacteria is that it is extremely resistant to traditional antibiotics like penicillin. Your child may need a longer term of antibiotics.
Depending on the severity of the infection, you may also consider more extreme treatments such as IVIG or Plasmapheresis to attempt to reset your child’s immune system.
One thing that Elizabeth discovered in her research was that if you were to eliminate simple sugars from your diet, you can kill these bacteria out. But this would be a very long process, and realistically may be difficult for people to not ingest any sugars ever.
· Addressing the psychological and neurological symptoms
Anti-depressants or anti-inflammatories may also be prescribed to address the psychological and neurological symptoms, as well as to try and calm the immune system.
Therapy treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can also help your child change their way of thinking to lessen their behavioral outbursts.
As with anything, take the time to learn, be aware, and know when you need to advocate for you and your child’s health.