Health Check Learns How P.A.N.D.A.S. Is a Not-So-Cuddly Disease
Your child’s strep throat could lead to a dangerous disorder that causes drastic changes in behavior overnight. P.A.N.D.A.S. is a pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with strep that experts say can be treated with early detection and accurate diagnoses. Diana Pohlman, founder and Executive Director of the P.A.N.D.A.S. Network, joined Heidi Godman on WSRQ’s Health Check to discuss how the not-so-cuddly disease affected her son.
In 2007, Diana’s son, who had suffered from strep for four months, left for his first day of second grade as a happy little boy and returned as a completely different child. He ran through the front door in a panic, convinced that his home had been polluted with radiation. He told his mother to turn off the lights and TV or else they’d all be poisoned. Diana reports that her son began to exhibit strange facial grimacing, neck twisting and body movements. At one point, Diana recalls removing all the doors from inside her house so her son would not lock himself up, afraid of the air, invasion or death. Doctors were at a loss for what was affecting Diana’s son, who began to have sleep and eating issues. She feared for his life.
After four long months, Diana found a pediatrician who prescribed her son Azithromycin and within 48 hours he had improved by 30 percent. Two weeks later, with the combination of Zithromax, IVIG and a tonsillectomy, he was cured. Four years later, Diana’s 7 year old daughter also exhibited symptoms of P.A.N.D.A.S., indicating a genetic component to the disorder. Diana immediately recognized that her daughter had the disease and with three weeks of antibiotics she was cured.
Diana explains that P.A.N.D.A.S. is not a new disease, but that it hasn’t been paid much attention in the past. The disorder presents with the sudden onset of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) that is traumatic and dramatic and is accompanied by two or more of the following symptoms: intense sensory sensitivity, ticks and abnormal body movements, intense and debilitating separation anxiety, difficulty sleeping, frequent nightmares, extreme personality changes, frequent urination, age regression, acute inability to concentrate and extreme hyperactivity. Diana says the sudden onset of P.A.N.D.A.S. is unmistakable as the happy child the parent knew the night before is gone, replaced with a paranoid, terrified stranger.
The P.A.N.D.A.S. Network aims to raise awareness about the debilitating disease and provide resources for struggling parents. Parents can use the P.A.N.D.A.S. Network as an emergency stop gap by contacting representatives at pandasnetwork.org who will walk them through the process and help them understand the disease. The website also offers various resources, including a survey that helps parents clearly articulate their child’s symptoms to their pediatrician.
Listen to Diana Pohlman on WSRQ’s Health IQ below: