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Strep infection sometimes leads to sudden tics in children

A health warning: you should know this about a common illness that affects some children in an unusual way.
The coordination and focus required to catch or kick a ball happens without thought now for 11-year-old Mason Golden.

A health warning: you should know this about a common illness that affects some children in an unusual way.
 
The coordination and focus required to catch or kick a ball happens without thought now for 11-year-old Mason Golden. It's significant progress after years of a medical mystery that started with the sudden onset of a tick like cough.

His mother, Tenille Fondren, recalled, "[It] didn't seem like he was getting the cough out. So it sounded was like 'ugh, ugh' and then he had the head nod, 'ugh, ugh' like that repeatedly, over and over, nonstop."

It was not definitely not normal. She captured some more minor episodes on home video.  But when it hit there was no way to miss it.

"I just wanted to hide because really my teacher in fourth grade, she used to read us a book and I would just do it," said Mason, "And everybody would just stare at me. And it was like put a bag over my face so no one could see me."

Soon Mason, with a gift for drawing and tracing, suddenly could not sit still.

His mother became alarmed.

"One day he just got up and started spinning and I'm like 'Mason what are you doing?' And he's like, 'Nothing, this is fun.'"

It was odd and the family sought medical care with Dr. Deborah Sokol.

"We tried anti-psychotics with him. We tried everything with him," she said.

But it didn't help. Then Dr. Sokol ran additional tests including a strep test. It came back positive and she made a new diagnosis: PANDAS. That's an autoimmune response to strep that produces symptoms similar to Tourette's. 

"The body produces an antibody to the strep infection and the antibody then attacks the brain," said Dr. Sokol.

That causes obsessive behavior. The first line of treatment is an antibiotic.  Mason took Augmentin.  The family took video again and he seemed better. 

Mom Tenille has some advice.

"I want to reach other parents, other mothers with children who are sick and they don't know what is going on and their kids are being treated with anti-psychotics and nothing is helping," she said.

Now Mason is back on track, as are his grades and confidence after getting the right diagnosis.