Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a short-term but often life-threatening disorder that affects the nerves in the body. GBS can cause muscle weakness, pain, and short-term (temporary) paralysis of the facial, chest, and leg muscles. Paralyzed chest muscles can lead to breathing problems and death if not treated. Most children diagnosed with GBS recover fully with no complications. Recovery often starts within a few weeks after the symptoms begin.
Researchers don’t know the exact cause of GBS. GBS may be an autoimmune disorder that causes the body's immune system to attack part of the nervous system. This can occur after a viral infection, surgery, or injury, or as a reaction to a vaccine. About 2 out of 3 people who develop symptoms of GBS do so a few days or weeks after diarrhea or a respiratory illness.
GBS is rare, but any child can develop it.
Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. They can include:
Your child may have muscle weakness for 1 to 2 weeks. This can last up to 1 to 2 months, with full recovery at least 1 to 2 years after diagnosis.
The symptoms of GBS can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she will give your child a physical exam. Your child may also have tests, such as:
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
There is no treatment to cure GBS. The key to managing GBS is finding it early. This condition will go away on its own, but can be life threatening. A child with GBS will need to be in a hospital intensive care unit (ICU) and closely watched by a healthcare team.
The goal of treatment is to prevent breathing problems and ease symptoms. Medicines are used to control pain and other problems. In severe cases, your child may need to be on a breathing machine (ventilator).
Your child may also need treatment to suppress the immune system or reduce inflammation. This may include:
Talk with your child’s healthcare providers about the risks, benefits, and possible side effects of all treatments.
During the course of the illness, your child may develop stiff muscles and contracted joints. He or she may need physical, occupational, or speech therapy during recovery. This is to help him or her regain muscle strength, and speech and swallowing skills.
The healthcare team will tell you how to best care for your child at home. Make sure your child gets enough rest and activity. Your child will also likely need regular visits with the healthcare provider after he or she gets home from the hospital.
Most children diagnosed with GBS recover fully with no complications. If GBS is not treated, paralysis of the chest muscles can lead to breathing problems and death. Recovery often starts within a few weeks after the onset of symptoms. Your child may have muscle weakness for 1 to 2 weeks. This can last up to 1 to 2 months, with full recovery at least 1 to 2 years after diagnosis.
Call the healthcare provider if your child has:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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