June 21, 2007
Pneumocystis carinii (NEW-mo-SIS-tis CA-RIN- nee-eye) pneumonia, or "PCP," is a severe illness that adults and children with HIV or AIDS may get. It is caused by a germ called Pneumocystis carinii. Most children infected with this germ don't get pneumonia because their immune systems are normal. Children whose immune systems are badly damaged by HIV can get PCP. Children with HIV are less likely to get PCP today than in earlier years. However, PCP is still the most common serious infection among children with AIDS in the United States.
If your child has PCP, he or she probably will have fever, cough, or trouble breathing. Children with PCP may die if the infection is not treated quickly. See your doctor immediately if your child has these symptoms. PCP can be diagnosed only by laboratory tests of fluid or tissue from the lungs.
The best way to prevent PCP in children is to prevent HIV in children. Pregnant women with HIV should speak with their doctors about taking antiretroviral treatments to prevent passing their HIV infection to their unborn child. Children whose mothers have HIV also can take anti-viral treatments and medicine to prevent PCP. The best drug for preventing PCP is trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (try-METH-o- prim - sul-fa-meth-OX-uh-sole), or TMP-SMX. What is TMP-SMX? TMP-SMX is a combination of two medicines. It has many different brand names, such as Bactrim, Septra, and Cotrim*. Older children can take TMP-SMX in tablet form. You can also get TMP-SMX as a liquid for babies and young children.
Babies don't get TMP-SMX treatment until they are at least 4 weeks old because most children will be taking zidovudine (also called AZT), and small children shouldn't take the two drugs together. Also, TMP-SMX can cause liver damage in babies younger than 4 weeks old. Babies don't usually get PCP until they are at least 8 weeks old.
TMP-SMX can make some people have a rash or feel sick. If the drug reaction is not severe, TMP-SMX should be continued because it works so much better than any other medicine to prevent PCP.
Yes. Check with your doctor about the possibility of other treatments. Your child should take all of his or her medicines as prescribed by your doctor. Don't lower the dosage without speaking with your doctor.
Yes. If your child has already had PCP, he or she can get it again. TMP-SMX can prevent second infections with PCP. Therefore, treatment should be used even after your child has had PCP to prevent getting it again.
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