What is guillain-barre syndrome?

Guillain-Barré syndrome in children: Overview

Guillain-Barré (say "ghee-YAN bah-RAY") syndrome is a nerve problem. Your child may have been ill or had an infection. While the body's own defenses (immune system) were fighting off the illness, the nerves were damaged. Guillain-Barré syndrome makes your child's muscles weak and leaves your child feeling numb or tingly. Many people with this syndrome do not get worse than that. But some people with Guillain-Barré syndrome may not be able to move their limbs.

Some people with Guillain-Barré syndrome need to go into the hospital because the muscles become so weak that it may be hard to walk or breathe. If your child cannot move at all, your child may have treatment to help breathe, drink, and eat.

With time, your child should start feeling stronger. But it may be several months before your child can return to everyday activities. During that time your child may need therapy to help regain the ability to walk and talk. Your child may continue to feel tired even after they no longer have Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Guillain-Barré syndrome

Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare nerve disorder that occurs when the body's own defenses (immune system) attack part of the peripheral nervous system.

Symptoms usually start with numbness or tingling in the fingers and toes, followed by muscle weakness in the legs, arms, and other muscles that develops over a period of days to weeks and can progress to complete paralysis. Difficulties in breathing and swallowing can also develop. The cause of this disease is not known, but it often occurs after a viral or bacterial infection.

Guillain-Barré syndrome is treated with immunotherapy, which boosts the body's immune system and its ability to fight disease. Although this syndrome can be life-threatening, most people recover with few lasting problems.

What are the symptoms of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)?

GBS often starts with muscle weakness in the legs and arms. It may cause numbness and tingling in the fingers and toes. The muscle weakness may soon get worse. You may have trouble moving your arms or legs. And it may become hard to breathe or swallow.

How is Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) treated?

GBS is treated in the hospital. You may get intravenous immune globulin (IVIG) or a plasma exchange. These treatments are called immunotherapy.

  • In IVIG, helpful antibodies are added to your blood.
  • In a plasma exchange, blood is taken out of your body. The harmful antibodies are removed from the blood, and then the blood is returned to your body.

If you have severe muscle weakness, you may also have treatment to help you breathe, drink, and eat. You may need therapy to help you walk and talk again.

Most people get better with few lasting symptoms. But recovery may take months.

How is Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) diagnosed?

GBS can be hard to diagnose. Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask about your symptoms and your past health. A spinal tap (lumbar puncture) may be done to take a sample of your spinal fluid. You may also have other tests, such as an electromyogram or nerve conduction studies.

How can you care for your child who has Guillain-Barré syndrome?

  • Make sure your child rests as much as possible.
  • If possible, have your child exercise daily to help strengthen the muscles.
  • Have your child do physical therapy as directed by your doctor.
  • Ask your family and friends for help at home while your child has Guillain-Barré syndrome and is recovering. Your child may need help with some activities and chores.

What is Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)?

Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare nerve problem. It occurs when the body's immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. This makes your muscles weak. It can happen after a viral or bacterial infection. GBS can be deadly. But with treatment, most people recover over time.

Guillain-Barré syndrome in children: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child loses the ability to move.
  • Your child has trouble breathing or swallowing.
  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

©2011-2024 Healthwise, Incorporated

The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.