Understanding ‘Pandas’

Medicine is supposed to be an ever-evolving practice where research scientists and doctors work to discover new conditions and eradicate new diseases. However, sometimes resistance to something new by some in the medical community comes at the expense of health and healing. This is when as parents we must become our children’s first primary care physician and stand up to be our child’s best health advocate. Many times doctors are reluctant to think outside a very narrow paradigm when it comes to something that is new.

This is certainly the case with a relatively misunderstood and often misdiagnosed condition that occurs in children who are suffering from pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with a streptococcal infection, often referred to as Pandas. There is now a growing body of concrete evidence pointing to this disorder, and while it is not rare, it is rarely diagnosed, with many doctors still refusing to acknowledge its possibility in their patients.

What is Pandas? It is an autoimmune disorder that now appears to be affecting 1 out of 200 children. It is often hastily misdiagnosed as a tic disorder, Tourette’s syndrome, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. It describes a sudden childhood onset of obsessive-compulsive behaviors, emotional lability, or “Tourette-like” motor tic symptoms that wax and wane, but whose onset or worsening appears to be linked to group A beta-hemolytic streptococcal infection. While in most cases it is triggered by a strep infection, many times the initial triggering infection is something else or goes unidentified. The disorder is what happens when a child’s immune system does not respond appropriately to an infection. It is basically a colossal failure of the immune system.

It is important to reiterate that the dominant infection connected to the disorder is streptococcus; however, it appears that infections such as Coxsackie A and B, pneumonia, flu, Lyme disease, and mycoplasma can also be the trigger. There is currently a much greater understanding about how many different bacterial and viral infections can trigger the condition, which causes inflammation in parts of the brain responsible for movement control, obsessive thoughts, compulsive behaviors, and extreme emotional and behavioral ups and downs. The symptoms are varied, but often include motor tics, eye blinking and or rolling, vocal tics, obsessive-compulsive disorder, symptoms of anxiety often over separation, compulsions, emotional lability, irritability, sudden unexplainable rages, fight or flight behaviors, personality changes, age-inappropriate behaviors particularly regressive bedtime fears or rituals, oppositional defiant disorder, tactile and sensory defensiveness, fidgetiness or inability to focus, marked deterioration in handwriting or math skills, daytime urinary frequency, nighttime bed wetting, and anorexia (particularly fear of choking, contamination fears, or fear of throwing up).

Many children will exhibit just one or a few of these symptoms, and it is not necessary to the diagnosis that a child exhibit all of them. Many times these symptoms will come and go over a period of time, causing parents to believe that the condition is gone — only to return with a significantly higher intensity. Up to this point treatment has been limited to the use of long-term antibiotics (two months to several years), intravenous immunoglobulin treatment, or plasmaphoresis. Many times this treatment has been ineffective, leaving children struggling with this condition for years.

Recently the use of all natural essential oils as an effective, alternative, and safe approach has gained attention and has shown remarkable results, with many claiming complete and total recovery. While this a natural and alternative approach and not a traditional pharmaceutical treatment, many hospitals and integrated doctors are turning their attention to essential oils because of their keen abilities. Numerous peer-reviewed medical journals and published studies both in America and abroad show that essential oils contain properties that are highly anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory. They also have the ability to address issues of cellular malfunction and oxidative stress. One key to their remarkable success is their ability to cross the blood barrier, making essential oils effective at addressing the cause and the effect of the disorder in a manner that is safe and natural.

As devastating as it can be, Pandas does not have to be a permanent condition. The key is recognizing it and treating it correctly. As parents, we must listen to that voice inside of us, and if your instinct is telling you something else is wrong with your child, you need to pursue it despite what one doctor may be advising you. Do not stop until you get an answer, keep pushing. It is important that you understand that all neurological abnormalities may not be what they appear to be, but instead be something more easily treated. Any child who presents a sudden onset of these symptoms should be evaluated for Pandas. If your child suddenly starts to have eye twitching or blinking, head shaking, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or behavioral abnormalities, it is wise to look for a recent strep infection. Lastly, any child who has been diagnosed as having Tourette’s syndrome, motor tics, or even obsessive-compulsive disorder deserves a Pandas workup.

The key to helping children with Pandas is awareness of the disorder and a willingness to do whatever it takes to get them to full recovery, even if that means opening up your mind to an alternative form of treatment.

William Cook is the parent of a child who was diagnosed with Pandas, and he and his wife Joann know firsthand the struggles it presents. After traditional medicine didn’t work, they turned to essential oils as an alternative, and their child experienced a complete recovery. The Cooks then formed Pandas Hope For Healing, a free service to help other children experience the benefits of using essential oils. The Cooks work with many families and guide them through the process of using essential oils effectively. Their website is www.panda‌shope‌forhe‌aling.com. They live on Long Island.