The kids turned into strangers by bug mistaken for mental illness – that can be cured with antibiotics

monster-kids

IMAGINE putting your child to bed with a sore throat, only for them to wake up like something from The Exorcist - violent and terrifying.

Well, that's the reality for a number of parents who live in fear of their kids.

 
William Hewlett was struck down with a fever last September, after which he became violent and started hallucinating

This isn't just a routine surge of pre-teen hormones.

We're talking screaming fits in supermarkets. Physical threats of violence. Self-harm.

So what is 'Exorcist syndrome'?

PANDAs, or paediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder, also known as "exorcist syndrome", - is a rare condition triggered by a strep infection.

It causes inflammation on the brain, which can cause tics, changes in personality, anxiety and OCD.

 
His parents claim his condition was triggered by mould in their home

Symptoms can appear overnight

William Hewlett was eight years old when he was struck down with a fever last September. In the aftermath he became violent and started hallucinating - even begging his parents to kill him.

Mum Johanne said her son "transformed into a demon", and claims his PANDAS was triggered by mould in their home.

The 43-year-old said: "It was like something out of The Exorcist, he just changed overnight.

“He started being really aggressive and violent.

"He looked different, he looked really pale and his eyes were sunken.

 
He'd tell his mum to push him in front of a  bus

“He was hallucinating saying there was blood dripping down the curtains.

"He would look at us and it was like he didn’t register us. He would say ‘where’s my mum?’

"It was horrible. He would ask me to get his mum, I thought ‘he doesn’t know who I am’."

The condition was first identified in 1998 by scientists at the US National Institute of Mental Health who were studying a group of kids with OCD.

It's closely related to the compulsive disorder, with tics being one of the main symptoms.

Nine-year-old Amelia Ashcroft couldn't stop smacking her lips after a bout of severe tonsillitis, led to PANDAS.

 
Amelia developed a strep infection, after which she started having tantrums in Asda

Her terrifying "exorcist"-like tantrums saw mum Nikki Ashcroft having to restrain her in the aisles at Asda.

After randomly starting to scream and shout, her character "completely changed".

Nikki got her referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist and after a few months, Amelia's tics and mood swings began to improve.

Full-time mum Nikki added: “We had a couple of weeks where it was OK. Then she got mild tonsillitis again and her tics came back again.

“That lasted again for about ten weeks. Then, in May, she got it really badly and was off school for a few days.”

Why do kids get PANDAS?

We don't get know why infections trigger such extreme responses but scientists believe that it's a faulty immune response - triggered by strep infections.

That affects the part of the brain responsible for movement, behaviour and emotions.

Seven years ago, Isaac Harvey developed a strep infection which triggered a similar bizarre and terrifying response.

 
Isaac tries to throw himself out of his wheelchair - putting himself and others in danger

 

IT AFFECTS 1 in 200 KIDS... BUT MANY DOCTORS HAVE NEVER HEARD OF IT

According to PANS PANDA UK, parents of children who have the disorder told them that:

95 per cent of GPs did not suggest PANS or PANDAs 30 per cent say children have had more than six months off school 47 per cent say paediatrician had never heard of PAN or PANDAs 54 per cent received no treatment from the NHS at all

Even after years had passed, he would fly into psychotic rages which could last for hours and see him trying to launch himself of out his wheelchair.

"Over the past seven years when Isaac has had an episode he would scream and shout for hours, throw anything and everything at other people, break his wheelchair into pieces and use these pieces to attack us," his devastated mum, Claire Harvey said last year.

"The injuries we have sustained have been horrendous, ranging from bruises and bites, hair been ripped out, scratching, black eyes to broken bones and much more.

"There is no calming Isaac down or being able to stop an episode from occurring."

At 12, Cameron Lindsay became "possessed by the Devil" when he was struck down with a throat infection.

It triggered PANDAS, and caused Cameron to threaten his parents with knives.

Is there a treatment for PANDAS?

In many cases, a simple course of antibiotics should treat the infection, while anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and steroids can help to take the brain swelling down.

But the kids mentioned are still living with the fall out of the condition - suggesting that severe cases really aren't so easy to treat.

In fact, in 2012, researchers found a related condition called paediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome (Pans).

 

THE SIGNS YOUR CHILD COULD BE SUFFERING PANDAS

In most cases, PANS and PANDAS share the same symptoms.

Sudden OCD, tics or severely restricted food intake, plus two or more of the following Anxiety - including separation anxiety, irrational fears and panic attacks Sudden mood changes Depression Hyperactivity Involuntary movement Insomnia Bed-wetting Hallucinations or delucions Sudden deterioration in school performance Irribility, aggressive behaviour

It shares most of the symptoms of PANDAS but can be caused by other things - not just a strep infection.

In William's case, doctors believed he had autism until they diagnosed him with both PANDAS and PANS.

In America, experts believe that the conditions affect one child in every 200.

So what should you do if you fear your child has PANS or PANDAS?

Well, obviously your best bet is to take them to your GP and ask that the necessary tests are run.

Given its rarity, however, you might find that your doctor knows relatively little about it.

In fact, charity PANS PANDA UK claims that 95 per cent of GPs in the UK have never heard of the conditions.

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