"In August this year, my usually healthy 5-year-old son Harry started complaining that he felt unwell. Except for a raised temperature, he had no symptoms. Since he was still pretty much his usual self, we didn’t worry too much but kept an eye on his temp.
The following day, his fever had risen to 39 deg C. Feeling concerned, my husband and I took Harry to our paediatrician at Mount Alvernia Hospital. The doctor didn’t seem too concerned as he didn’t have any other symptoms, so sent us home with general flu medication and antibiotics.
Though we gave Harry his meds religiously, his condition did not improve. In fact, things got worse over the next four days when his temperature fluctuated at between 39 and 40 deg C. No one in our household slept well that week. My hubby and I were up almost every hour checking Harry’s temperature, sponging him to try and bring down the fever and administering the medicine.
“Sleep-deprived and fully-aware that a prolonged high fever and cough are not good signs, we rushed Harry to our paedi again, hoping to get to the bottom of this problem.”
By day six, not only had his fever not subsided, Harry had also developed a nasty cough. It didn’t sound like the usual cough, much deeper, which worried us even more. Sleep-deprived and fully-aware that a prolonged high fever and cough are not good signs, we rushed Harry to our paedi again, hoping to get to the bottom of this problem.
This time, our equally concerned doctor listened to Harry’s lungs and noticed that he was having difficulty breathing. After sending him for a chest X-ray, which showed patches on his left lung, his paediatrician suspected that it could be pneumonia. A physiotherapist then came in to help Harry cough out enough phlegm, which was then sent to the lab for tests.
Click to find out the results of the lab test…
It took two days, but the hospital finally got back and told us that it was mycoplasma. I had never heard of the condition until then, but our paediatrician walked us through the illness ― explaining that it was a respiratory infection ― and fully treatable. That made me feel a little better, but the ordeal was not over yet.
Harry had to be hospitalised at Mount Alvernia while they administered antibiotics via a drip to fight the infection. He was also on a nebuliser, a device that produces a mist mixed with medicine. When inhaled, the mist broke down the phlegm in his lungs to help him breathe better.
As a working mum, it was hard to keep up with my job obligations whilst trying to be there for my son, but I knew I had to power through it. As I was determined to nurse my little one back to good health, I took time off work to spend every waking moment with him. My only consolation was that even though he was fatigued and physically unwell, Harry was relatively in good spirits and was able to eat properly.
"After his second day at the hospital, Harry’s fever started subsiding and since he was breathing easier, so did I.”
After his second day at the hospital, Harry’s fever started subsiding and since he was breathing easier, so did I. A day later, Harry was finally discharged but he was instructed to stay home for one week to ensure that he recovered fully. During this time, he was put on a week’s course of oral Klacid (clarithromycin) antibiotics. He also used the nebuliser to help clear his lungs. I stayed home with him the entire week. While he was still eating relatively well, Harry needed to drink more water to keep himself hydrated, which was a bit of a challenge.
A week later, we returned to Mount Alvernia for a check-up. Harry’s temperature was back to normal, although he had lost 1 kg from the ordeal. The cough took another week to clear up.
Everything is back to normal now, but I can’t help but worry that my little boy might succumb to mycoplasma again as it’s easy for young kids to get it, especially in a school environment. There were no other reported cases of mycoplasma in Harry’s preschool, but should it ever happen again I will be more prepared.”
Mary Tan, 36, a business engagement manager, is mum to Harry, 5.
Read on to get the lowdown on mycoplasma…
Facts about mycoplasma
*Mycoplasma causes a respiratory infection in the form of pneumonia.
*Common symptoms can be either respiratory or non-respiratory. Respiratory symptoms include fever, dry cough, sore throat, ear ache and breathing difficulties. Some of the prominent non-respiratory symptoms include generalised body rash and pain and swelling in the joints.
*It can be usually diagnosed through a chest X-ray and blood tests such as serology tests like IgM and IgG antibodies, and advanced ones like Polymerase Chain Reaction tests.
*Once the mycoplasma pneumonia diagnosis is made, doctors will start the patient on a course of antibiotics ― Azithromycin for five days or Clarithromycin for 10 days.
*While anyone can get this pneumonia, it’s more common in children 5 years of age and older. Although kids are not particularly at risk, being in crowded areas such as schools and playgrounds can increase their risk of respiratory infections.
*There are no specific ways to prevent mycoplasma pneumonia nor are there any vaccines. It helps to avoid crowded areas, people with respiratory infections, as well as improve your nutrition and general health.
Contributed by Dr Mahesh Babu Ramamurthy, head & senior consultant, division of Paediatric Pulmonary and Sleep, National University Hospital.
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