Health Conditions / Neurological Health

6 People With MS Share How They Manage Symptoms During the Holidays

6 People With MS Share How They Manage Symptoms During the Holidays

So, she says she’s learned little hacks to help her feel a bit more comfortable when she’s out and about. “Often one of the first things I do when I arrive at an event, party, or gathering, is find the seats,” she says. “That way, if I start feeling tired, I know right where to go and can buy myself more time at the gathering.”“I space things out.”Verena Frydberg, 43, breaks things up to make them feel a bit less taxing. “I schedule rest periods between my activities,” she tells SELF. “For example, if I’m going to cook, I get my groceries delivered. I choose ingredients that are already prepped, like chopped onions and chicken that’s pounded thin or cut a certain way. This helps me minimize my time in the kitchen.”Frydberg also gets ready differently than she would have in the past. That means showering the night before and even resting pre-event in the outfit she plans to wear since getting dressed can be a “tiring task” for her.“I learned this about myself years ago,” Frydberg says. “I would spend all day prepping to entertain and leave getting myself ready to the end when I was too exhausted. Then I’d feel uncomfortable about how I looked the whole time we had guests. This was not good in my book, so I figured out how to switch it up.”“I’m incredibly honest.”Landis says she’s very open with loved ones about how she’s feeling. “I’ll say to them, ‘This is what triggers me, and sometimes I don’t know why I’m not feeling well,’” she says. “I’ll be incredibly honest and say, ‘If I cancel on you, it’s not that I don’t love you.’”But she’s still careful not to use MS as a reason to just cancel on people. “I don’t want to use my MS as an excuse or a crutch,” she says.Martin says she’s also learned to be open about what she’s going through—and to learn the power of the word “no.” “I used to hide my symptoms and try to pretend that I was fine and just endure,” she says. “But I always ended up paying for it later and probably missed out on more because of it.” Now, she says no when she’s really not feeling up for something, which allows her to show up fully at other times.“I stay home when I really need to.”Elizabeth Giardina, 45, tells SELF that she also really struggles with fatigue when she has MS flares. “It is almost like everything is heavier and more [tiring], so walking feels like more of an effort,” she explains. “I also have a hard time with cognitive abilities. It sometimes feels like I am running in circles because my brain has a hard time focusing on completing what it set out to do.”Stress typically leads to flares for her, so she’s learned to take a step back during the holidays. She used to feel like she “had to do everything” during this season. “I live a bit further than most of my family so I would often be cooking huge meals and then transporting them to another family member’s home,” Giardina explains. “It got to the point where I realized I was just taking on too much.” Now, she gives herself some wiggle room. “I still cook but try to take at least a few of the days around the holidays to stay home. It is too hard on my body to be doing the cooking and the traveling.”“I put myself first.”It can be hard, but Landis says that “putting yourself first is the most important thing” when it comes to getting through the holidays as someone who lives with MS. “At the end of the day, it’s your body that’s going to have to deal with the consequences,” she says. She recommends picking up the phone and calling someone if you need to skip a gathering, so you can have a verbal conversation. “If they don’t understand, then they weren’t really a good person in your life anyway,” she says.Michelle Tolson, 49, also believes in the power of being firm with your boundaries. “There are times that I push through the fatigue and there are times that I know I can’t do it,” she tells SELF. “I am always honest with my friends about how I am feeling. Having a solid support system is so important when living with a silent and progressive disease like MS.”Related:

Why Christina Applegate Went Barefoot During Her Hollywood Walk of Fame Ceremony

Why Christina Applegate Went Barefoot During Her Hollywood Walk of Fame Ceremony

This isn’t the first time Applegate has talked candidly about her MS symptoms. In a recent interview with The New York Times, the Dead to Me actor shared what it was like to grapple with the neurological condition on set. She told the publication that she felt off-balance while filming a dance scene, and then later had trouble playing tennis. Eventually, she couldn’t ignore the numbness and tingling she felt in her extremities. Sometimes, she had to use a wheelchair while filming and, at one point, a crew member had to physically hold up her legs so she could stand during certain scenes.These are all “very common” symptoms of MS and balance issues are often a “big problem” for people living with the condition, Dr. Jacobs says. “It can lead to a risk for falls, and it’s something that we are very concerned about.”“MS can hit the systems that help you feel and move,” Amit Sachdev, MD, the director of the division of neuromuscular medicine at Michigan State University, tells SELF. “Balance requires feeling the position of the body and adjusting the position. When both feeling and moving are damaged, balance can suffer.”Because of this, Dr. Jacobs says she will often recommend physical and occupational therapy for her MS patients. “Both can offer a lot in terms of your physical stance,” she explains. As for foot pain, Dr. Jacobs says MS can impact sensory pathways in the body, which can trigger a “misinterpretation of sensations.” That can lead to burning and pins-and-needles sensations or even itchiness.While going barefoot can help temporarily alleviate certain symptoms, it’s not always practical. That’s why Dr. Jacobs says she urges people with MS to get “comfortable shoes with a good foundation,” making sure to avoid things like “very high heels” when possible. Customized orthotics can also be helpful for added support and potential pain relief, Suhayl Dhib-Jalbut, MD, the chair of the department of neurology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, tells SELF.Outside of wearing supportive footwear, using compression socks, and trying various forms of physical therapy, Dr. Jacobs says practicing yoga is also “tremendously helpful for balance.”Applegate later shared on Twitter that she was “incredibly honored” to receive her star. During her speech, she said the support of her loved ones, especially her daughter, has been vital since her diagnosis. “I am blessed every day that I get to wake up and take you to your school,” she said tearfully. “You are my everything. Thank you for standing beside me through all of this.”Related:

How to Make Sure Your Migraines Don’t Totally Derail Your Holiday Plans

How to Make Sure Your Migraines Don’t Totally Derail Your Holiday Plans

All of that is to say: There are options out there beyond lying down in a dark room (although if the “Silent Night” treatment works for you, great.) It’s best to start a medication plan sooner rather than later since it can take some trial and error to find a treatment that works for you.2. Try to stick to your routine as much as possible.Depending on how your family and friends celebrate, holidays could mean lots of traveling, staying up late, getting up early, or skipping meals (maybe in anticipation of one large smorgasbord later in the day).Unfortunately, these elements can be a recipe for migraine attacks. For example, skipping meals or going long periods of time between eating can be a major trigger for many people with migraine, according to the American Migraine Foundation. Getting too little sleep and getting too much sleep can also trigger migraine attacks, the Mayo Clinic notes.That’s why sticking to your usual routine as much as you can is key. “It is essential to keep a consistent schedule for meals, sleep, and aerobic exercise,” Dr. Zhang says. “It sounds simplistic, but it is very effective.” Regular exercise—not always the easiest thing to get during the frantic holiday season—can also help keep symptoms in check for some people, according to the Mayo Clinic. (No need to make your Turkey Trot a marathon, though: Going a bit too hard with exercise can have the opposite effect and actually trigger episodes for some people.)3. Keep your other triggers in mind too.Migraine triggers are as unique as snowflakes, but there are some common ones to keep on your radar, according to the Mayo Clinic. These include alcohol (especially wine), strong smells (hello, candles), loud sounds, certain foods like aged cheeses and cured meats, and food additives like aspartame and MSG, among so many others. So the next time you leave a festive party that had a delicious charcuterie spread, plenty of boozy drinks, and loud music and laughter, you may be able to anticipate a headache coming on.If you know of a trigger that is a no-go for your migraine, plan for how you can avoid it, if possible. If wine is a problem, for example, BYOB that doesn’t set off your pain to the holiday party, or bring a fun booze-free beverage to share if alcohol just isn’t your thing. The same advice applies to food: The more the merrier, so bring a dish you know you can enjoy and want to share with others. If strong smells can hurt your head, alert your host (if you feel comfortable enough), and ask if they can avoid scented candles or opt for having gatherings in well-ventilated or outdoor spaces.That said, if you’re not entirely sure what your triggers are, you’re not alone. “It’s often hard to pinpoint triggers,” Dr. Zhang says. And they’re not always a surefire way to ward off a migraine headache. “Triggers are usually partial and additive,” she says. So it’s rare that loud sounds on their own will trigger a migraine—but loud sounds after a stressful day at work on too little sleep? Not a great combination.4. Surround yourself with supportive people.Not everybody gets what it’s like to live with migraine—or will respect the steps you have to take to be as pain-free as possible. So try to choose a holiday circle that does get it. “Embrace the people who understand,” Natalia Murinova, MD, the director of the University of Washington Medicine Headache Center, tells SELF.

Christina Applegate Shares How Her Subtle MS Symptoms Worsened

Christina Applegate Shares How Her Subtle MS Symptoms Worsened

Applegate said some people working on Dead to Me wanted to end production after she received her diagnosis—but she was determined to see it through. “The powers that be were like, ‘Let’s just stop. We don’t need to finish it. Let’s put a few episodes together,’” she explained. “I said, ‘No. We’re going to do it, but we’re going to do it on my terms.’”As her symptoms progressed, Applegate had to adjust to new logistical challenges on set. She said she had a hard time navigating the steps to her trailer; she sometimes used a wheelchair; and heat made shooting difficult for her, she explained. (High temperatures can exacerbate MS symptoms for some people with the condition, per the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.)Fortunately, Applegate says the Dead to Me team was supportive. Her co-star, Linda Cardellini, who also happens to be a close friend, advocated for her when she needed to take a break but didn’t want to ask for one. “She was my champion, my warrior, my voice,” Applegate said. “It was like having a mama bear.” A sound technician also helped Applegate by physically holding up her legs so she could stand through certain scenes.Even though she stuck with this project until it was done, Applegate said she hasn’t—and doesn’t expect to—reach a point of resolution with her diagnosis: “It’s not like I came to the other side of it, like, ‘Woohoo, I’m totally fine,’” she said.But she’s hopeful that audiences will appreciate the end of the series, for the sake of its characters, Applegate said: “If people hate it, if people love it, that’s not up to me…. But hopefully people can get past it and just enjoy the ride and say goodbye.”Related:

I Was Diagnosed With MS at 20—After My Doctor Completely Dismissed My First Symptom

I Was Diagnosed With MS at 20—After My Doctor Completely Dismissed My First Symptom

Tenley Diaz, 31, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2012 when she was 20 years old. MS is a neurodegenerative disease that causes the immune system to attack myelin, the protective coating that covers the nerve fibers. The ensuing inflammation and damage interrupt communication between your brain and the rest of your body, setting off a wide array of potential symptoms like muscle numbness and weakness, tremors and coordination problems, blurry vision, slurred speech, and heavy fatigue, among others.It was a diagnosis Diaz didn’t see coming. Her first doctor dismissed her initial symptoms, and it took a few tries to find a specialist she trusted. But she found the care she needed—and trusted her intuition that something just wasn’t right. Here’s her story, as told to health writer Korin Miller.—I was a college student just shy of my 21st birthday when my left big toe went numb. I was enrolled in a really competitive major, so I mostly ignored it for a few days. But then I started noticing another unusual symptom.At first, I thought I had a random patch of dry skin on my left thigh—until I eventually realized what was actually happening: I wasn’t feeling my hand touching my skin at all. This sparked a week-long adventure of me half-thinking that I was losing my mind.I finally decided to see a general practitioner about this sudden numbness developing in my body. His response: My pants were too tight. I was advised to take some ibuprofen and wear sweatpants for a few days because he believed I had a pinched nerve—again, allegedly from my too-tight pants. I did not receive this very well, as you can imagine. (My pants were definitely not tight enough to pinch a nerve!)The next day, things got worse. I went numb from the waist down and every step that I took caused a pins-and-needles sensation in my feet. I called an internist I had seen for migraine headaches in the past—there was no way I was going back to the tight-pants doctor—and got an appointment scheduled ASAP. My internist listened to my history and something seemed to click: “I think you have MS. I’m sending you downstairs for an MRI right now,” he said, and so I immediately went in for imaging.Sure enough, thinking back to my symptoms now, the skin I couldn’t feel on my thigh wasn’t dry or “dead”—my brain just wasn’t processing touch in that spot, because my test results were consistent with MS.After my testing, finding the right specialist took some effort.I took a few days off from school to process everything and to find a neurologist who could confirm the diagnosis and help guide my treatment. Luckily, most of my professors were very supportive and helped me rearrange testing and homework due dates to accommodate the few days I took off. (All except one, who ultimately needed a strongly-worded email to take me seriously and let me make up the work I missed.)

TikTok Is Changing the Way We Talk About ADHD—for Better and Worse

TikTok Is Changing the Way We Talk About ADHD—for Better and Worse

This oversimplification of ADHD—symptoms as common as sleepiness and feeling unmotivated have been equated with disorder on TikTok—may boost the risk of overdiagnosis and misdiagnoses, the researchers suggest, adding to a growing body of evidence that ADHD is becoming increasingly overdiagnosed in adults.With any spectrum-based disorder—meaning the type and severity of possible symptoms can vary widely—everything is going to be pretty nuanced, Sasha Hamdan, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist who specializes in ADHD, tells SELF. Some of the symptoms mentioned above aren’t indicative of a health condition until they really start to impact a person’s ability to function in their daily life, Dr. Hamdani explains. For example, many TikTokers claim that trouble with concentration is a tell-tale sign of ADHD—but this is a complex symptom. While it may be one sign of ADHD, it can also potentially point to many other health-related issues, from anxiety or depression to sleep deprivation, says Dr. Gold. On top of that, the pandemic—which deprived many of us of the activities and social interactions that kept us mentally stimulated—has affected nearly everybody’s ability to focus in some way. “Has that brought more people with ADHD to me? Yes. Has that made it more complicated? Yes,” Dr. Gold says. Has every person who thinks they have ADHD left her office with a diagnosis? “No,” she adds.All that said, some older research suggests that adult ADHD has also gone undiagnosed in millions of people—primarily among marginalized groups—for decades. Black children, for example, are less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD and receive proper treatment; their symptoms are often misattributed to disruptive behavior, says Dr. Gold. There’s also a real gender gap in ADHD diagnoses. Boys typically get diagnosed in middle or high school since their symptoms tend to be more obvious from a young age (think: hyperactivity and impulsive behavior). Girls with ADHD, who tend to be more forgetful or disorganized than hyperactive, often aren’t diagnosed until later on in life, studies suggest.And to many mental health professionals, talking more about ADHD has ultimately been a good thing. It’s motivated people, many of whom may have never pursued or received an ADHD diagnosis, to check in with themselves and advocate for their health. “I want people to become curious about what’s going on in their own brain,” Dr. Hamdami stresses.“We should be having more conversations about the spectrum of symptoms in people’s lives and how it affects them,” Dr. Gold agrees, especially in communities that have historically neglected or dismissed mental health conversations—say, due to factors like generational trauma or cultural differences in family structures.Still, it’s important to take any health information you see on social media with a grain of salt. It can be really tricky, even for professionals, to diagnose ADHD. There is no single test that confirms ADHD in a child or an adult, so it requires some serious detective work and a detailed assessment of your symptoms, Dr. Gold says. Plus, ADHD often goes hand-in-hand with other mental health conditions, like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and some personality disorders. You don’t want to miss those if they may be affecting you, too, which is one of many reasons it’s crucial to get a diagnosis from an expert rather than an influencer. A doctor can also help you navigate treatment options, which is key: “Some ADHD treatments, if improperly managed, could worsen anxiety that would also then worsen the focus,” says Dr. Hamdani.So, if you find yourself relating to all the online chatter about ADHD, use that as a jumping-off point. Pay closer attention to the symptoms you’re experiencing, and think about writing them down or tracking them in some way if you can. Note what you’re feeling, how often you’re feeling it, and how it’s impacting your everyday life; consider looking into these ADHD resources while you’re at it, too. Then, when you reach out to a health care professional—say, your primary care doctor, a licensed mental health professional, or a specialist like a neurologist if you already see one—you’ll come armed with the knowledge of personal reflection, and you can work with your provider to, hopefully, get the care you need.Related:

Selma Blair Says Joining ‘Dancing With the Stars’ Is a ‘Powerful’ Moment for Her

Selma Blair Says Joining ‘Dancing With the Stars’ Is a ‘Powerful’ Moment for Her

Since her multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis in 2018, Selma Blair has adapted to many challenges with fierce determination and infectious enthusiasm, so it’s no surprise she’s “beyond thrilled” to join the upcoming season of “Dancing With the Stars” (DWTS).In a recent group interview with Good Morning America (GMA), the 50-year-old actor and author said she’s “grabbing at every joy we have in life,” and is excited about “getting out and moving,” even if her muscles get a bit worked up in the process. “The truth is when I am trying new things I get a lot of spasticity, dystonia,” she said, “and I am okay.”MS is a complex neurological condition that impacts the central nervous system. Experts believe the disease is autoimmune in nature because the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy parts of the body and damages the protective insulation, known as myelin, that forms around nerves. Essentially, this makes it really tough for the brain to communicate with the rest of the body, which can trigger a slew of wide-ranging and potentially disabling symptoms—from muscle weakness and memory problems to chronic pain and even partial paralysis. Spasticity and dystonia, for example, are both disorders that can impact muscle movements.But Blair and her DWTS partner, pro dancer Sasha Farber, see all of this as an opportunity to get a bit imaginative with their routines. “Walking is much harder for me than when I can get into the groove of settling into dance and fluidity,” Blair told Entertainment Tonight (ET). “This is an amazing lesson to use my emotions and body together to unite a little more with the support of Sasha and music.”And Farber finds his partner equally exciting to work with: He told ET that joining forces with Blair “isn’t about a dance competition,” because he genuinely just wants to see her “improve and to grow.” That’s why the duo took things really slow when their practice rounds first started; Farber checked in with Blair before each rehearsal to make sure she wasn’t in pain, and they liked to perform breathing exercises together. “I wasn’t aware of what I could do,” she said, “if I could safely push myself.”Blair has always been candid about the reality of living with MS, including how important mobility aids and adaptive devices are when it comes to figuring out everyday life and being a mom to her 11-year-old son, Arthur.So, a little anxiety is also to be expected. Blair told GMA that she gets nervous “if I lose my partner’s touch,” while dancing, since she’s used to having her dog, Scout, or her cane for support at home—but that’s not going to stop her from enjoying herself on stage, she said: “This is so powerful to me.”Related:

Dr. Dre Says His Doctors Didn’t Think He Would Survive His Brain Aneurysm in 2021

Dr. Dre Says His Doctors Didn’t Think He Would Survive His Brain Aneurysm in 2021

Andre Romelle Young, better known as Dr. Dre, revealed that his doctors feared he wouldn’t survive the brain aneurysm he was diagnosed with in January 2021. In a recent interview clip shared on Diverse Mentality’s Instagram, the 57-year-old rapper and producer shared more about his experience, explaining he didn’t know how serious it was until after the fact.“I’m at Cedars-Sinai Hospital, and they weren’t allowing anybody to come up, meaning visitors or family or anything like that, because of COVID,” Dr. Dre said. “But they allowed my family to come in. I found out later they called them up so they could say their last goodbyes because they thought I was out of here.”Instagram contentThis content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.He went on to share what his recovery process was like, explaining: “I was in the ICU for two weeks because of what was going on in my brain. They had to wake me up every hour on the hour for two weeks to do these tests, [which were] basically sobriety tests—touch your nose, rub your heel on your calf. So every hour for two weeks I had to wake up and do that.” The testing routine to monitor his recovery was exhausting. “As soon as they leave, I would try to go to sleep because I knew they were coming back in the next hour,” Dr. Dre said. He also didn’t eat regularly for two weeks during this time, adding, “I was hungry.”His family and his medical team never told him the reason he was allowed to have visitors. “I didn’t know it was that serious. Seeing my mom and sister, everybody coming in the room—nobody told me. I had no idea,” Dr. Dre said. In fact, he was thinking of home while in the hospital. “I never felt like I was in trouble,” he said. “I felt like I’m just going through procedure, and I’m ready to go home.”

7 Questions to Ask Your Doctor After an M.S. Diagnosis, From People Who Have Been There

7 Questions to Ask Your Doctor After an M.S. Diagnosis, From People Who Have Been There

Bhuta suggests asking your doctor about physical therapy, including water therapy, which research shows can help control pain and improve symptoms and quality of life among people with M.S.1 “I go to physical therapy more often than normal and it has helped me stay off the muscle relaxers,” Bhuta says.Cubero says speech therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and occupational therapy have all been tremendously helpful in managing her fatigue and cognitive symptoms, but she says these therapies weren’t offered until she asked about them. “I’ve learned that in order to take control over my medical care, I had to advocate for myself,” she says.Azure Antoinette, 39, says one of the most important things she’s learned in the past decade of living with M.S. is the importance of approaching symptom management holistically, factoring in things like exercise and diet, on top of choosing the right medication.“I encourage newly diagnosed M.S. warriors to speak up—not only to discuss what medication may be best for you but also ask your doctor for tips and resources to help with everything else that comes with living with a chronic illness,” Antoinette tells SELF.4. Can I exercise?Staying active was a top concern for dancer Courtney Platt, 34, after her M.S. diagnosis. “Anyone going through this journey should ask whether they can stay active, if there are limitations they should consider, and the benefits of staying active for their health,” she tells SELF. Platt’s neurologist let her know she could continue dancing, and movement has played an important role in keeping her body, mind, and soul strong since her diagnosis.Research shows that exercise benefits people living with M.S. in many ways, including helping with symptom management and improving quality of life.2 Exercise can help build strength, improve flexibility and mobility, and increase cardiovascular fitness, but you may need to adjust your exercise habits depending on your goals, abilities, and how you’re feeling on any given day.3Platt encourages working with your health care team to determine how much movement makes sense for you, and to listen when your body tells you to rest. “Know when you need to push through and know when you need to pause,” she says.5. Will anything make my symptoms worse?Sometimes M.S. symptoms can be triggered by seemingly simple things like stress and heat. Bhuta used to be able to spend tons of time in the sun but now loses energy if she gets too hot. Knowing that heat is a big trigger for her, she now uses cooling towels and wears a big hat to block the sun and prevent overheating. “Ask your doctor about what is likely to trigger your symptoms and what you can do to alleviate them,” Bhuta says.At the time of Bordelon’s diagnosis, her job as a medical surgery coder required long hours and a ton of computer time. But she had no idea that all that screen time (and the eyestrain that comes along with it) and the increased stress of working long hours would make her M.S. symptoms worse. “Had I known that staring at the computer screen would cause additional stress on my body and ultimately worsen my symptoms, I would have scaled back on my workload while I was finding the right treatment to manage my M.S.,” she says.6. Is there anything I can do to feel more prepared to deal with my symptoms on a day-to-day basis?You’re not alone if you feel worried and overwhelmed after an M.S. diagnosis. To alleviate some of that anxiousness, ask your doctor what you can do to prepare for symptom flares and to manage your condition on a daily basis. “Are there ‘just in case’ medicines they can prescribe? Is there support equipment that you can have in your house, like shower chairs and handles, canes, and walkers? Whatever you need, ask for it,” Bhuta says. If you find certain tasks have become more difficult, let your doctor know, and ask them what might help.7. How can I connect with others who have multiple sclerosis?You may feel alone and isolated after being diagnosed with M.S., but there are many other people out there feeling the exact same way who are also looking for some support. Ask your doctor how and where you can connect with people who have M.S. There may be a support group in your area, or you can connect with people on social media or join an online support group.“I highly recommend getting involved with the M.S. community because it will help you feel more normal and give you the comfort you need,” Bhuta says. “I spent a lot of time on the MS Society forums, and they will even pair you up with someone who has been diagnosed that you can talk to about your journey.”Bottom line: Know that it’s completely acceptable to advocate for yourself and ask lots of questions. “You’re not in this alone and the only way people know how to help you is if you speak up,” Bhuta says. “You allow people to see what you’re experiencing only by vocalizing it. Speak up often—it will be your greatest ally.”Sources:Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Hydrotherapy for the Treatment of Pain in People With Multiple Sclerosis: A Randomized Controlled TrialThe Lancet Neurology, Exercise in Patients With Multiple SclerosisSports Medicine, Exercise and Multiple SclerosisRelated:

The CDC Issued a Health Alert About Parechovirus in Babies—Here’s What You Need to Know

The CDC Issued a Health Alert About Parechovirus in Babies—Here’s What You Need to Know

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a health advisory notifying health care providers that parechovirus is currently circulating in the U.S. Since May 2022, the organization has received reports from health care providers in “multiple states” of parechovirus infections in newborns and young babies.The CDC is encouraging clinicians to consider parechovirus in “infants presenting with fever, sepsis-like syndrome, or neurologic illness (seizures, meningitis) without another known cause and to test for parechovirus in children with signs and symptoms” that may indicate an infection, the alert reads.This may sound unsettling, but it’s important to know that this is a “common virus” that typically spreads during the summer and fall, Ian C. Michelow, MD, division head of pediatric infectious diseases and immunology at Connecticut Children’s Specialty Group, tells SELF. “It’s become newsworthy because there have been a lot of cases recently and some severe outcomes in some of these babies.”If you have a little one in your life, it’s understandable to have questions, but experts stress that awareness is key. Here’s what you need to know about parechovirus and why it’s getting more attention than usual right now.What is parechovirus and what symptoms does it typically cause?Parechovirus is a common childhood illness that can cause a wide range of symptoms, ranging from none at all to severe illness, the CDC says. There are four types of parechoviruses; PeV-A3—the one that’s currently circulating and causing concern—is the most linked with severe disease.Symptoms of parechovirus in infants and children between the ages of six months and five years can include fever; a skin rash; nausea or digestive discomfort; and symptoms associated with an upper respiratory tract infection like a sore throat and fatigue.But the illness can become severe in children less than three months old. Complications can potentially include sepsis-like illness, which can present with a high fever, breathing irregularities, or confusion. Meningitis or meningoencephalitis is also a possibility, especially in infants younger than one month, which can lead to neurological symptoms like headache, neck stiffness, or seizures.This virus isn’t limited to little ones, though. Anyone can contract parechovirus, Danelle Fisher MD, pediatrician and chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells SELF. “For adults, it can just present as the common cold,” she says.Do certain infants face a higher risk than others?While premature and immunocompromised infants are considered high risk for most illnesses, Dr. Fisher says the risk for serious complications of parechovirus really boils down to age. “The little babies—especially those who are newborn and in the first three months of life when they have a blank immune system—can have symptoms that are more severe,” she says.That doesn’t mean your baby is guaranteed to get really sick if they happen to contract parechovirus, though. “I personally have diagnosed four babies in the last month who did very well,” Dr. Michelow says.

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