October 9th is PANS/PANDAS Awareness Day! Did you know some children may develop sudden and severe mental and neurological symptoms after exposure to various viruses and bacteria?
This condition is called PANS (Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome) or PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections). PANS is a more general term that does not specify the type of infection thought to trigger the symptoms. It’s called “acute onset” because the behavior changes occur suddenly, reaching full-scale intensity in 24-48 hours. It can be triggered by different types of infections, such as strep, Lyme, walking pneumonia, Covid, or others.
PANS can cause symptoms such as obsessive-compulsive behavior, tics, anxiety, depression, irritability, sleep problems, and learning difficulties. These symptoms can interfere with the child’s academic, social, and emotional development. It is often misdiagnosed or, even worse, overlooked because the symptoms can mimic other disorders such as ADHD, Tourette syndrome, or autism. However, early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to prevent long-term complications and improve the child’s quality of life.
Having seen the devastating effects when PANS go untreated, I would like to raise awareness among childcare providers, clinicians, educators, and parents to look below the behavior a child is exhibiting, especially when it is very different than their typical responses.
Looking at biomedical drivers that affect the brain and body’s functioning, such as infections, inflammation, immune system dysregulation, nutritional deficiencies, environmental toxins, or genetic mutations, is vital to consider. Medical treatment may include working with the microbiome and brain to recover a healthy internal environment and reducing neural inflammation with nutraceuticals or sometimes corticosteroids, antibiotics, IVIG, plasmapheresis, or rituximab, depending on the severity of the condition. A healthy, nutrient-dense diet is always a good place to start rebalancing the immune response, as is looking at foods that are triggering autoimmune diseases.
Along with medical treatment, an understanding parent, child care provider, educator, or therapist willing to modify and accommodate the child’s life while his body heals can be invaluable support. Because of the stress and trauma a body and brain undergo with this diagnosis, children will need lots of emotional and somatic support to reestablish safety within themselves. Their nervous system is being told they are unsafe in their body 24/7, which will take time to recover. Families will need help as well. Dr.BG Mancini @braingutinstitute talks about The Family Nervous System® as a way to help families understand the intricate dynamic of recovery from any situation within the family unit so they can more deeply connect with themselves and each other.
By disciplines working together, we can help these children get the care and support they need. To learn more about this condition and how you can help, visit https://pandasnetwork.org and sites such as https://braingutinstitute.com Dr. BG Mancini has a wealth of knowledge and experience in treating children holistically with this condition.
You can follow me here and LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/monica-kmetz-cochran-215aa414 and my website https://learningwithoutborders.com for updates and more tips on supporting children with PANS and other conditions that affect their learning.
Graphic courtesy of (2) BG Mancini Functional Medicine, Neurodevelopmental Specialist | LinkedIn