​​Signs of Tuberculosis in children​

Dr Fatima Mir is the head of Infectious Disease at the Department of Paediatrics & Child Health. She answers some common questions of Tuberculosis in children:

When children get Tuberculosis or TB, they are more likely to get extra pulmonary TB, which means TB outside the lung. Their lymph nodes, especially those in their neck and underarms swell up. The mothers will feel a lump while they're giving a bath to the child. Or they will have fever more than two weeks, or they will have cough more than two weeks. There will be weight loss. There will be night sweats. ​​This is the classic presentation of multi-system TB. 

Mothers should be aware if they see or they notice large lymph nodes which stay large for more than three months. They should definitely get the child checked. And at the same time, if the child is running a fever and is having an unexplained cough for more than two weeks, have the child be assessed for TB. 

How do you get TB? 

You get TB by inhaling the bacteria from the air. It's known as a droplet infection and children will be infected by infected adults around them. 

So if your child goes to school could they be at risk? 

They could be at risk if they are sitting in under-ventilated rooms and there is somebody in that room who is coughing TB bacteria into the air. 

Is TB widespread in Pakistan? 

TB is very widespread. We are a high prevalence country. In fact, among the top 6 high TB burden countries in the world. TB is endemic. TB is very much present in Pakistan. 

Wasn't TB a disease of some earlier century? And doesn't it just infect the poor, as some people say? 

In a high burden country, unfortunately, yes, poverty is a risk factor. Underventilated rooms and overcrowding within a room do not help. Household density is one of those risk factors. ​So poverty is definitely a risk factor in the spread of TB but in an endemic country like Pakistan, the rich, the people between the rich and the poor... everybody is vulnerable to TB. 

How do you treat TB? 

So that's what's improved from historic times. We have an excellent regimen which is given for free by the Pakistan TB program, which is the national TB control program. They have centers all across Pakistan where TB medicines and TB diagnostics in the form of sputum tests with rapid PCRs are done. Once the diagnosis is done the government takes care of the TB treatment and the multi-drug resistant TB treatment also.