Last week, we brought Ethan and Hannah for a routine pediatrician checkup; Ethan had his 3-year-old checkup, while Hannah had her 2-week checkup done.
Ethan was very cooperative. He happily undressed and put on a very cute hospital gown, and stayed very still while his blood pressure was taken, his eyes, ears and throat was checked, and he was very well-behaved too as Hannah was being checked.
Ethan’s height: 3′ (0.914m)
Ethan’s weight: 28lb (12.701kilos)
The doctor assessed Ethan and we were VERY amazed that Ethan could draw a CIRCLE when the doctor asked him to! Isn’t that spectacular?
Anyway, the doctor required that Ethan take a Tuberculin skin test and an anemia test. The anemia test is a simple finger prick test, and we were given the results immediately: Ethan is not anemic. As for the Tuberculin skin test, we had to return 48-72 hours later to obtain the results. The Tuberculin skin test (also known as the Mantoux test) involved injecting a little bit of Tuberculin into the skin layer of Ethan’s forearm and observing the reaction.
Our poor boy of course wailed and cried when both the Tuberculin test and anemia test was done. Not even stickers would pacify him.
The doctor also prescribed fluoride tablets for Ethan, given that the tap water in the area we live in does not contain fluoride. Ethan calls it his “circle” vitamins now, and thankfully, he happily takes one a day (they are grape flavored!)
Anyway, back to the Tuberculin test…we returned to the hospital 2 days later for the reading, and it was positive. Of course, Pete and I think it is possibly due to the fact that Ethan had his BCG vaccination at birth. Kids born in the US do NOT have the BCG vaccination and they take the Tuberculin skin test to test if they had been exposed to the TB bacteria. Now because Ethan tested positive for the skin test, as a routine protocol, we had to get a chest x-ray done on him to ensure he did not have the active TB bacteria in him.
Two days after the chest x-ray, the doctor called to let me know that the x-ray was fine and Ethan did not have an active TB disease in him. However, the doctors here are worried that the TB bacteria could lie dormant in the child’s body, as in latent tuberculosis, and recommended Ethan go on a 9-month medication.
Pete and I are declining this because it is very certain that Ethan’s initial positive skin test result is due to his BCG vaccination. Furthermore, Ethan will definitely NOT like to be on medication for such a long duration and also we would be headed for home in about 4 months’ time.
In any case, we learnt a few new things from this experience, but what is confusing is…the BCG vaccine is not a 100% fullproof prevention of the TB disease. If this is so, why are babies in Malaysia being vaccinated at birth? Why can’t they do away with the vaccine and perform the skin test instead?