By Dr. Mercola
Bell’s palsy is a condition that can affect any age group. Practically anyone can develop it, from adults to children.1,2 Fortunately, children have the lowest chances of developing it, especially if they’re younger than 15 years old.3 That being said, it’s still important to be prepared if your child happens to develop it.
Detecting Bell's Palsy in Your Child
The causes of Bell’s palsy in children are very much the same as adults — they are usually viral or bacterial strains infecting the facial nerve. After one or two weeks from an initial infection, you should watch out for the following symptoms of Bell’s palsy that can appear in your child:4,5,6
• Facial paralysis: The affected side will have weakened muscles, and your child will have difficulties moving the cheek. It’s possible that both sides can become affected as well.
• Optical issues: Your child may have difficulty blinking their eye on the affected side. When this happens, a condition called dry eyes can develop. Eye drops may be needed to prevent further optical damage.
• Sensory changes: The affected side of the tongue may have difficulty tasting flavors, while the affected ear may hear sounds louder than usual.
• Pain: Mild facial pain may appear in the affected area or behind the ear.
How to Diagnose and Treat Bell's Palsy
If you detect any sort of facial paralysis in your child two weeks after an infection, visit your doctor immediately for diagnosis. They will interview you and your child about the symptoms and conduct examinations to determine the extent of the nerve damage.7
Usually, the first test done is a visual examination of the symptoms. People affected with Bell’s palsy typically have a certain look, which doctors can identify right away. But to be sure, your child may undergo an electromyography test, which examines nerve health of the paralyzed areas.
A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test may be taken as well to rule out any possible structural damage to the skull that may have caused the paralysis.8 Conventional treatment of Bell’s palsy typically involves steroidal medications; however, these are not recommended, especially for children. The good news is that children with Bell’s palsy tend to recover better than adults.
That being said, you should help your child manage any complications, such as dry eyes, to prevent any eye infections while they recover.9,10
The Prognosis Is Good for Children With Bell's Palsy
Fortunately, the outcome for children with Bell’s palsy is very positive. It’s estimated that 85 percent of children who develop it can recover fully as time goes by, even without the need for treatment. >For the remaining amount, it’s estimated that 10 percent have mild residual muscle weakness and 5 percent have severe residual muscle weakness.
To help your child cope with their condition, remember to explain the disease to them and how it affects their appearance. In addition, constant support is needed as this can be a very trying time for them. Teach them how to speak up about their condition, especially when they are made fun of by other relatives and friends who are not knowledgeable about it. Eventually, the condition will heal, and your child can resume a normal life.11