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Understanding PANS and PANDAS: Navigating Pediatric Neuropsychiatric Disorders

By Dr Nancy O'Hara
from Mindd Foundation

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Imagine your child suddenly exhibiting severe obsessions, compulsions, or restrictive eating habits seemingly overnight. These alarming changes may not be mere phases but could indicate a lesser-known condition called Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS) or its subset, Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS). Let’s delve into what these conditions entail, their causes, symptoms, and most importantly, how to support affected children.

What is PANS and PANDAS?

PANS and PANDAS are subsets of Post Acute Infection Syndromes (PAIS) which can drive all the above-listed symptoms. It is worth noting that many Long COVID symptoms overlap with many PAIS symptoms.

Recognising the Signs and Symptoms

The signs of PANS and PANDAS can be varied and severe, ranging from acute-onset OCD and panic attacks to sudden behavioral regressions, mood changes, picky eating and sleep disturbances. Children may also experience motor or sensory abnormalities, such as changes in handwriting or sensory sensitivities. Identifying these symptoms early is crucial for timely intervention and management.

Understanding the Causes

Research suggests that both PANS and PANDAS stem from an abnormal immune response, where the body mistakenly attacks brain tissues instead of infections. This immune dysregulation leads to inflammation in the basal ganglia, impacting emotions, behaviour, and cognitive functions.

Navigating Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing PANS/PANDAS involves clinical assessments coupled with evidence of abrupt behavioural changes and neuropsychiatric symptoms. While treatment varies based on symptom severity, it often includes a combination of conventional and integrative approaches. From antibiotics and corticosteroids to cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and dietary interventions, the goal is to reduce inflammation, modulate the immune system, and address individual symptoms effectively.

Integrative Approaches for Support

Integrative treatments for PANS/PANDAS encompass a holistic approach, including antimicrobials, anti-inflammatory agents, therapeutic diets, and mind-body therapies. These treatments aim to not only alleviate symptoms but also restore overall health and well-being.

Read more below or watch the video recording of Dr Nancy O’Hara’s Q and A on PANDAS and PANS (Post Acute Infection Syndromes)

Navigating Nutritional and Lifestyle Changes

Nutrition plays a crucial role in managing PANS/PANDAS, emphasising anti-inflammatory foods rich in essential nutrients like zinc, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids. Therapeutic diets like Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free or Gut And Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) may also be beneficial in reducing inflammation and supporting immune function.

Seeking Resources and Support

Navigating PANS/PANDAS can be daunting, but numerous resources are available to guide parents and caregivers. From informative e-books to specialised practitioners, seeking support and education is key to effectively managing these complex conditions.

In conclusion, while PANS and PANDAS pose significant challenges, early recognition, comprehensive evaluation, and tailored interventions can make a substantial difference in the lives of affected children. By understanding the underlying mechanisms, exploring integrative treatments, and fostering a supportive environment, we can empower families to navigate these neuropsychiatric disorders with resilience and hope.


More about the author

Mindd Health
Dr Nancy O'Hara
– Mindd Foundation

Mindd Foundation helps practitioners and patients discover and implement effective treatments for Metabolic, Immunologic, Neurologic, Digestive, Developmental conditions that often affect the mind. Our focus is on paediatric disorders and chronic illness such as ADHD, Asthma, allergies, autism, chronic illness, depression, learning and language delay, and digestive and behavioural disorders. Research is showing that these children are coming from families with a history of “brain-immuno-gut disorders” triggered by toxins, malnutrition and infections. The rise in childhood disease signals a need for preventative healthcare that focuses on cellular health by optimising nutrient intake while minimising toxins.