Sometimes when children present with difficult behaviors they are given a mental health diagnosis without considering whether an infection might be the root cause of the disorder.  When the child’s behaviors are the result of strep antibodies attacking the basal ganglia of the brain, the condition is known as PANDAS: Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Strep.  Once the condition is triggered by strep, subsequent exacerbations can be caused by other bacteria or viruses such as the flu.

When a child comes down with severe sudden onset OCD as the primary symptom, sometimes triggered by infections other than strep, it may be referred to as Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS).

Symptoms of PANDAS/PANS

  • Obsessive-compulsive behaviors: can include repetitive behaviors, excess fear of germs, hair pulling and eating disorders
  • Motor and verbal tics (Tourette’s)
  • ADHD symptoms (hyperactivity, inattention, fidgety)
  • Separation anxiety (child is “clingy” and has difficulty separating from his or her caregivers
  • Mood changes (irritability, sadness, emotional swings)
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Nighttime bedwetting and/or daytime urinary frequency
  • Fine/gross motor changes (e.g. changes in handwriting)
  • Joint pains