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Could My Child Have PANDAS?

My son has had strep throat for a few days now. Ever since his throat started hurting, he's been acting differently. My neighbor told me about something called PANDAS — when a strep throat infection leads to behavioral or emotional problems. Is this true? Might my son have PANDAS?
Melinda

It's highly unlikely that your child has PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections).

Kids with this condition have symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or tics that come on very suddenly after having a group A streptococcus infection (like strep throat or, less commonly, scarlet fever).

No one knows why PANDAS occurs. One theory is that strep infections may cause changes in a part of the brain called the basal ganglia, which is involved in controlling behavior. Scientists are studying this theory to better understand the connection between strep infections and disorders like OCD and tics.

Of course, just because a child has had strep throat doesn't mean he or she will also develop PANDAS. Almost all school-age kids have strep throat at some point, and almost all recover with no complications. Similarly, most kids who have OCD or tics do not have PANDAS. Doctors may suspect the condition only if a child's OCD symptoms or tics are directly preceded by, or significantly worsen after, a strep infection.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: July 2010

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