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Everything You Need To Know About Tuberculosis In Babies

Posted By: Subodini Menon

We want our babies to be always healthy and happy. But, inevitably, our children fall sick at some point or the other. The interaction they have with their surroundings and the people in the society can cause them to pick up certain diseases.

As parents, we try our best to keep them away from such infections; but, many a times, prevention does not effectively happen and a cure is to be depended on. A simple cold or a bout of fever won't do much harm; but if it is a case of tuberculosis in babies, we need to be very concerned.

Until recently, Tuberculosis or TB was a dreaded disease that spelled fatal if one gets infected with it. The infection was rarely curable and was very contagious. Today, that is not the case. We have effective drugs that can help cure the disease and when on the medicines, TB is rarely contagious. Nevertheless, when found in babies, TB can indeed be dangerous.

Today, we shall talk about everything related to TB. This will help you save your baby from a possible infection and recognize the signs if your baby already is infected. Read on to know more.

tuberculosis in babies

What is TB?

Tuberculosis is a disease that is caused by the bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This bacterium primarily infects the lungs and then later can spread to the other parts of the body via the blood stream. The parts that can be secondarily infected are the spine, brain, kidneys and the bone marrow.

The disease needs to be recognized at the earliest to be treated correctly and be cured.

How Is TB Spread?

TB is an air-borne disease, which means that it spreads through the air. The bacteria are expelled into the air when a diseased person speaks, coughs or sneezes. It enters the body of a healthy person when he breaths the air laden with the bacteria.

The infection is less likely to occur in an open and a well-ventilated area as opposed to an enclosed space.

What Are The Different Kinds Of TB Infections?

It might take around a year after the initial exposure for the infection to fully develop. There are two kinds of infected people. A person who does have the TB bacteria in him and is infected but does not exhibit any symptoms is said to have 'Latent TB'. A person who does exhibit symptoms is said to have 'Active TB'. A person who has latent TB is not likely to be contagious.

How Does A Baby Get Infected With TB?


From The Mother

A baby can get infected with TB if the mothers had a TB while she was pregnant. If the mother has an active TB, the baby can get infected in the womb. This can be prevented if the mother consumes anti-TB medication.


From An Infected Person

If a baby comes in close contact with an infected person or someone in the household has TB, the baby can become infected too.


By Drinking Milk From An Infected Cow

If a baby is fed milk from an infected cow, the baby can get TB too. If the milk is boiled or pasteurized, the bacteria are killed off and the milk becomes safe to consume.


Is The TB Of Toddlers And Babies Common In India?

More than 1/4th of the global TB cases are seen in our country. Among every 10 TB cases, 1 is reported to be a child. Annually, an approximate of 2 lakh cases of TB in children come forward. Children who are between 2 and 4 years of age are more likely to be infected, as they have an immature immune system. But the TB in children is less infectious and contagious when compared to the TB in adults.

What Symptoms Are Exhibited By Children Who Are Infected By TB?

You must take your child to the doctor if he shows the following symptoms:

• Persistent cough of more than 2 weeks

• Lymph glands that are swollen

• Fever that develops at night

• The baby or the toddler does not have any weight gain

• The baby or the toddler loses weight

• The child does not have an appetite

• The child has come in contact with a person who is infected with TB

How Is TB Confirmed In Children?

The doctor will use the combination of the signs and symptoms together with the results of appropriate tests. The tests usually done are:


Mantoux test

Mantoux test is a safe test in which the doctor will inject an insignificant amount of TB protein under the skin of your child and observe the reaction. It will not infect your baby with TB.



The doctor will order for an x-ray of the chest if he doubts the presence of TB infection.


Test of the phlegm

If your baby is able to bring up some sputum, it will be checked for the presence of the bacteria.

What To Do If Your Doctor Confirms That Your Baby Has TB?


Find out if other family members have TB too

Your doctor can find out if your baby has TB, even if he is not an active TB patient. You will now need to think about how he was infected. Others in your family and people who are in immediate and close contact must be informed and encouraged to get the tuberculosis tests done. This is because; very often people might not exhibit any symptoms but will still need to be treated to be healthy.


Give your baby or toddler the medicines prescribed for TB regularly and without fail

Today, TB is completely curable provided that the long-term medications are religiously consumed. The medication is prescribed for a time period of 6 months, as that is the time required to kill the bacteria thoroughly. The medications should not be stopped once the baby starts feeling better.

If the medications are stopped at some point, they will need to be taken for another six months from the start. Regular checkups are important to make sure that your baby or toddler is making a good progress.

Should The Child Be Isolated?

If the baby or toddler has been taking his medication regularly for a period of two weeks, he doesn't need to be isolated. But to be safe, he should be kept away during the first two weeks of the treatment.

How To Prevent A Potential TB Infection?



The baby must be given the vaccinations that are prescribed to protect him against TB soon after he is born.



The baby must be exclusively breastfed for the first six months. An extended period of combination breastfeeding after the initial 6 months will help the baby immensely too.


TB Screening

If you have been exposed to people infected with TB or have travelled to a place where TB is common, you should get screened for TB. This is to make sure that you receive the treatment for TB even if you are not in the active phase.


Create A Healthy Atmosphere

Make sure that your home and the areas that the baby spends most of his time are clean and airy. The space should have good ventilation and the sunlight should be able to penetrate into your living spaces. The bacteria that cause TB tend to flourish in areas that are dirty, cramped, closed and dark.


The BCG Vaccination

BCG vaccination is the vaccine that is administered to the baby as soon as a few hours after birth. The vaccine has a weak strain of TB bacteria. It causes the baby's immune system to strengthen against potential attack from stronger strains. The government of India has made it compulsory for every baby to be given the BCG vaccine.

The BCG vaccine can fail if the baby is in constant company with a person who is infected with TB. In such cases, the baby can still fall ill. The best thing to do is getting the diseased person a quality treatment too.


Can You Breastfeed If You Have TB?

If you as a mother have been infected by the TB bacteria, you can pass it to your baby through the breast milk. You can breastfeed your baby if you have been taking the medicine for at least a couple of weeks. During this time, you can feed your baby with breast milk. Do not fear that the medication can adversely affect your baby. Only a little and an insignificant amount of the medication will pass into the baby's body through the breast milk.

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