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Health Information For Parents
Tuberculosis is an infectious disease caused by a type of bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis (often called “TB”) mainly infects the lungs, but can affect other organs.
Tuberculosis (too-bur-kyuh-LOW-sis) was one of the worst diseases of the 19th century. It became much rarer as living conditions and medical care got better in the United States. But it’s making a comeback today, particularly among the homeless, those in prison, and people whose immune systems are weakened (for instance, from HIV infection).
Yes. When someone with untreated TB coughs or sneezes, it sends droplets with the bacteria into the air. Inhaling these infected droplets is the usual way a person gets TB.
But not everyone who inhales infected droplets will get sick. That’s why doctors categorize TB as either:
Someone with TB disease might have these symptoms:
A latent tuberculosis infection causes no signs or symptoms, and a chest X-ray won’t show any signs of infection. Doctors can diagnose both latent TB infections and TB disease by doing a:
Someone with a positive tuberculin test (PPD) will need more testing to see whether they have a latent TB infection or TB disease.
Health experts recommend TB testing for people at higher risk for TB disease, such as those who:
Most people with tuberculosis don’t need treatment in a hospital and can be cared for at home. Doctors usually treat TB with oral (taken by mouth) antibiotics. Killing all the TB bacteria takes time, though, so most people need to take medicine for 6–9 months. Sometimes doctors use a combination of bacteria-killing medicines to treat active TB.
It’s important to take the antibiotics for as long as the doctor prescribed, even if someone feels better in a few weeks. That is the best way to kill the harmful bacteria. Stopping treatment too soon or skipping doses can give the remaining bacteria a chance to become resistant to the antibiotic. Drug resistance can lead to more dangerous types of tuberculosis that are harder to treat.
Doctors also might treat people with a latent infection and no symptoms. This is called preventive therapy. It kills the bacteria so they can’t cause health problems later. The most common preventive therapy is a daily dose of an antibiotic called isoniazid taken for 6–9 months. Doctors also sometimes give isoniazid to people at risk for getting TB again.
The prevention of TB depends on:
To prevent the spread of germs that cause TB and other infections, encourage everyone in your family to:
Call the doctor if anyone in your family has:
Missing out on shots puts you at more serious risk than you might think. That one little “ouch” moment protects you from some major health problems.
Pneumonia is a lung infection that can be caused by different types of germs, most commonly viruses. Read about symptoms and treatment.
Parents can help prevent HIV/AIDS by learning the facts and talking with their kids regularly about healthy behaviors, feelings, and sexuality.
Fevers happen when the body’s internal “thermostat” raises the body temperature above normal. This is often the body’s way of fighting infections.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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