When the seventh cranial nerve, which controls the muscles in a baby’s face, becomes inflamed it can cause Bell’s palsy. This causes weakness and sometimes paralysis on one or both sides of the face. The development of Bell’s palsy in an infant may have been unavoidable due to circumstances during labor or a viral infection.
Sometimes Bell’s palsy is also caused by injuries that were sustained during birth. Some factors that may make this more likely to happen include:
- Being induced
- A large baby
- Getting an epidural
- Prolonged labor
Although approximately 40,000 children and adults are diagnosed with Bell’s palsy in the United States each year, it is relatively uncommon in infants. However, the fact that this condition is rare is irrelevant if it happens to your baby. If your child has been diagnosed or you suspect they have Bell’s palsy, don’t panic. Most cases are not permanent. There are treatment options your baby may benefit from.
Bell’s Palsy Treatments
If you are concerned your baby may have Bell’s palsy, the first thing you probably want to know is what you can do about it. Fortunately, treatment options are available. Bell’s palsy can be cured with medication. Antiviral drugs like Valtrex and Zovirax can be used to slow the progression of infection along the affected facial nerve. Topical corticosteroids may also help in some cases.
In more serious cases, your pediatrician may recommend physical therapy or decompression surgery to treat your baby’s Bell’s palsy. Because the baby may not be able to property close one eye, the doctor may also recommend eye treatments like the use of artificial tears.
Even without medication or other treatments for Bell’s palsy, the condition typically will resolve on its own. The average time it takes for it to resolve is anywhere from two weeks to six months. The condition may be permanent in some infants, but this is very rare.
Signs of Infant Bell’s Palsy
There are several signs of Bell’s palsy, though each baby may experience them differently. If you notice any of the following symptoms, it’s time to take your baby to the pediatrician for an evaluation.
- Your baby can’t control their facial muscles.
- Your baby can’t make facial expressions.
- Your baby isn’t producing tears normally.
- Your baby is drooling excessively
Headaches, dizziness, and loss of taste sensation are also symptoms of Bell’s palsy, but there are difficult to confirm in an infant.
How a Doctor Tests for Infant Bell’s Palsy
If your baby is showing signs of Bell’s palsy, your pediatrician will perform tests to determine how the baby’s hearing, sight, and sensory perception may have been affected. Your baby’s doctor may also order an MRI, a CT scan, or an electroencephalogram, which is more commonly known as an EEG.
This testing may be done while you’re still in the hospital if your baby’s condition is apparent from birth, which it often is.
Bell’s Palsy in Children
If your child is getting older and their Bell’s palsy still has not resolved, they may experience issues like teasing or self-consciousness about their appearance. As a parent, you can help by talking to their teachers, their instructors in extracurricular activities, or other parents to explain the condition. You can also help your child by going over responses they can give to anyone who stares or asks questions.
If you believe your child’s Bell’s palsy was caused by a doctor’s mistake and you need help paying for the cost of treatment, you may also want to consider contacting a personal injury attorney who specializes in birth injuries. They can direct you to further resources and help you recover your damages.