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Necrotising Fasciitis
Can children get necrotising fasciitis?

Can children get necrotising fasciitis?

Necrotising Fasciitis is a rare but devastating and life-threatening condition that affects the deep, soft tissue of the body, leading to the decay of the tissue. In extreme circumstances, it can lead to septic shock and death. The vast majority of cases of necrotising fasciitis occur in adults but it is also possible for children to develop it.

What causes necrotising fasciitis?

Necrotising fasciitis can be caused by a number of different bacteria but seems predominantly caused by streptococcus pyrogenes. These bacteria can live naturally on the surface of the skin where they do not cause illness but can spread rapidly and destructively once they enter the body. Anyone with a wound, cut or insect bite, therefore, is vulnerable to infection by the bacteria. A patient with an already weakened immune system is especially vulnerable.

Necrotising fasciitis in children

There are a number of factors that impact on the occurrence and diagnosis of necrotising fasciitis in children.

Firstly, research, as stated on the website of the British Medical Journal, has suggested that necrotising fasciitis can develop in children who are generally healthy and have no underlying chronic illnesses, whereas, in the adult population, there is likely to be an underlying weakness or contributing illness such as diabetes. This means, in addition to the low incidence of necrotising fasciitis in children, that there is a lower expectation of the condition in children and medical practitioners may, therefore, be less likely to identify it when it does occur.

Secondly, the diagnosis of necrotising fasciitis in children can be complex as, particularly in young children, they may be less able to identify and describe the symptoms they are experiencing. Their limited understanding of language may lead to a misdiagnosis.

There is also evidence to suggest that necrotising fasciitis can be a possible complication in children with chickenpox.

Symptoms of necrotising fasciitis in children

Children are likely to exhibit signs similar to adults with necrotising fasciitis such as:

  • A high temperature
  • Redness and swelling (around the area of a cut or wound)
  • Intense pain in that area
  • Lethargy and irritability

Treatment of necrotising fasciitis in children

Unless diagnosed and treated urgently, necrotising fasciitis can lead to possible dysfunction of the limbs, amputation, blood-poisoning and death.

As soon as necrotising fasciitis is suspected, the patient should be given broad-spectrum antibiotics intravenously. Where the tissue has started to be damaged by the infection, surgical removal of all affected tissue (debridement) is necessary to reduce the chances of the condition spreading to other parts of the body.

The patient is likely to be moved to intensive care.

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