Tuberculosis (Latent TB) in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Lungs of a child

Latent tuberculosis (TB) means that your child has bacteria in his or her body that could cause active TB disease. Your child can't spread the bacteria to other people at this time. But if the bacteria overcome the body's defences, the disease becomes active. With active TB in the lungs, your child can spread the disease to others. Active TB is a serious disease.

Latent TB doesn't have any symptoms. You may even be surprised that your child has it, since he or she doesn't look or feel sick. It's very important to give your child the antibiotic medicine as your doctor tells you to. This treatment protects your child from getting active TB. It takes a long time to rid the body of TB. Treatment can last 3 to 9 months. During treatment your child will see the doctor for tests to see how the medicine is working.

The standard treatment for children ages 2 to 11 is daily medicine for 9 months. The type of antibiotic your child takes and how long he or she will take it will depend on your child's age and other health factors. Your doctor will help guide you through the process.

Your child may have directly observed therapy (DOT). This means that you meet with a health care worker when your child takes medicine. DOT helps with taking the medicine on schedule. And it helps your child complete treatment as soon as possible. The doctor will let you know if your child needs DOT.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Give your child antibiotics as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Have your child eat something before you give the medicine. This will help avoid an upset stomach.
  • If you forgot to give your child the medicine, give the dose as soon as you can if it's the same day. Do not give two doses at the same time. If the day has passed, then give the next scheduled dose. Tell your doctor or public health worker that you missed a dose so he or she can adjust your child's treatment schedule.
  • If your child doesn't have DOT, there are things you can do to help remind yourself to give the medicine:
    • Give the medicine at the same time every day.
    • Set a reminder alarm.
    • Use a pillbox.
    • Put a reminder note on your mirror or refrigerator.
    • Mark a calendar after you give the medicine.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has trouble breathing.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has new or worse nausea or vomiting.
  • Your child has new bruises or blood spots under the skin.
  • Your child has a rash.
  • Your child is dizzy or light-headed.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child is coughing for more than 2 weeks.
  • Your child has new fatigue, or your child's fatigue is worse.
  • You see a new or increasing yellow tint to your child's skin or the whites of the eyes.
  • Your child has new or worse numbness or tingling.
  • Your child has no appetite.
  • Your child has head and body aches.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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