Polio: Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment

Polio can easily lead to death and paralysis, but most people don’t get to recognize many symptoms of it. 

Polio is short for PolioMyelitis is a highly infectious disorder caused by the poliovirus. The infection attacks the nervous system of a person.

Important Facts And Stats About Polio

  • Children under the age of 5 years are at the highest risk for the disease. 
  • About 1 in every 200 cases of polio leads to irreversible paralysis. Among the paralyzed group of individuals, 5-10% of people die when their respiration muscles become locked-in. 
  • Cases resulting from an infection due to wild poliovirus have decreased by more than 99% since 1988.

What Are The Symptoms Of Polio?

There are three types of polio, and the symptoms you will experience depend on the type you’re having. 

Non-paralytic Polio

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Neck pain or stiffness
  • Back pain or stiffness
  • Muscle weakness or tenderness
  • The pain of stiffness in the arms or legs

Paralytic Polio

  • Intense muscle pain or weakness
  • Loss of reflexes
  • Loose or floppy limbs

Post-Polio Syndrome

  • Fatigue
  • Breathing or swallowing problems
  • Atrophy(wasting of body tissue or organ)
  • Sleep-related breathing problems
  • Decreased sensitivity to cold

What Causes Polio?

Polio is caused by a highly contagious virus called poliovirus, as discussed in the previous section of the article. It usually transmits through fecal-oral contact. It occurs mainly by the consumption of contaminated food or water or by improper washing of hands. An infected child can also spread the infection through coughing or sneezing. 

Can Polio Be Prevented?

Yes, you can prevent the risk of polio by maintaining good hygiene around yourself. A preventable vaccine is also available that you can take. 

Researchers have found that most of children in the United States of America receive four doses of the vaccine in the following different stages:

  • 02 months
  • 04 months
  • Between 06 and 18 months
  • Between 04-06 years, just before when children are about to enter school

Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?

Not everyone can get vaccinated to prevent polio as it can lead to severe complications. 

  • If you suffer from any mild or severe kind of illness, wait till you recover.
  • If you ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction after an IPV dosage, you should probably not get the vaccination again. 

What Are The Side Effects Of Polio Vaccination?

The polio vaccine also has some side effects but is often mild and goes away on their own. Some of the possible side effects include redness and pain at the injection site. 

In rare cases, a severe allergic reaction can also happen, which includes:

  • Hives
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hoarseness or Wheezing
  • Fast heart rate

Seek immediate medical assistance in case your child gets these symptoms after a polio shot. 

How Is Polio Diagnosed?

The doctor will first enquire about the patient’s condition and symptoms, and medical history, including whether he has been to a place where there were many cases of a polio epidemic. 

Most symptoms associated with polio resemble those of other viral disorders. For this reason, the doctor will perform some diagnostic tests to rule out the possibility of other medical conditions. 

If the doctor suspects polio, your throat swabs and stool specimens will be collected and analyzed. The specimen should be collected soon after the onset of the disease, particularly within 14 days. The doctor may also obtain a small sample of your blood for analysis. 

Another diagnosis test for polio is a lumbar puncture. In this test, a doctor collects cerebrospinal fluid to discover the poliovirus infection. 

Also Read: Lupus And Life Expectancy

Incubation Period

07-14 days with a range of 03-35 days

Infectious Period

As long as the poliovirus is there in the body, it is contagious. 

The poliovirus can remain in the throat for about 07 days, and on the face for about 03-06 weeks. 

How Is Polio Transmitted?

A person gets polio when he injects the poliovirus through his mouth. It can occur in the following different ways:

  • If you eat food prepared by someone who is living with polio
  • Drinking water that has contaminated with the poliovirus
  • Being in contact with the throat or nose discharges of a person who has polio
  • Inhaling airborne droplets with sneezes or coughs of a person infected with polio

How Is Polio Treated?

Sadly, there is no cure yet discovered for polio. To ease the symptoms, you can take some supportive measures such as:

  • Pain relievers
  • Portable ventilators to support breathing
  • Physical therapy to prevent muscle loss function or deformity

How Can You Prepare Yourself For An Appointment?

Whenever you make an appointment, make sure to ask your doctor if there is anything you can do on a prior basis. He will let you know the steps you can take to reduce the risk of transmission. 

Create a list of:

  • The symptoms you’re experiencing and the exact time of its commencement. 
  • The details about your possible sources of infection – It includes information about your international trips. Jot down the names of the countries you have visited along with the dates.
  • Your complete medical history. It includes the medications you take or have taken, the treatments you have undergone, the supplements you utilize, and other similar details. 
  • The questions you need to ask your doctor.

For polio, you can ask the following questions:

  • Do I have polio?
  • What other things can be the possible causes of my symptoms?
  • What tests do I require?
  • What self-preventive measures can I take?
  • Am I infectious? If yes, for how long?
  • How long will it take to recover?
  • Is there any risk of complications from polio?



















Tags: Polio treatment, Polio prevention, Symptoms of polio, Causes of polio

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Janet Fudge

Janet Fudge writes on general health topics for CheapMedicineShop.com. She holds a post-graduate diploma in Public Health with a major in epidemiology. During the outbreak of COVID-19, Janet actively volunteered in vaccination drives throughout the state of Iowa. She lives in Iowa with her husband and two children.