Children usually acquire TB from adults who have infectious pulmonary TB. It is not usual for children with TB disease to be infectious. Children and older infants infected with pulmonary TB often show few symptoms. Even a chest X-ray can fail to show the presence of TB bacteria in their lungs. In some instances their lymph glands may be enlarged and some coughing may occur. But as with all infections, the symptoms of pulmonary TB may be easily mistaken for other conditions. In almost all cases, a positive skin test will reveal a TB infection.
All children testing positive for TB, even if there are no signs of disease, should receive medication. It is vital the child completes the course of medication, even if they already feel better.
If the primary infection goes unnoticed, it will usually resolve itself with the child developing immunity over a period of six to 10 weeks. In some cases it may progress to the whole lung(s) or other body organs. Parents will probably notice symptoms in their child e.g. fever, weight loss, fatigue, loss of appetite and a persistent cough. If you think your child may have TB, seek immediate, professional medical advice.
Parents are usually able to treat their children at home. TB treatment for children is usually taken orally (by mouth) and may consist of up to four different drugs.
A health care professional may insist your child is cared for in hospital, particularly for the initial evaluation and treatment. Hospitalisation may also be necessary in cases of allergic reactions or co-infection with other diseases.