In April 2017, Jennifer House's world changed forever. Her 9-year-old daughter Caroline had just returned to school after battling the flu.
The next day, she came home with a sore throat, stomach ache, and fever. Jennifer immediately took her to the doctor, where Caroline was diagnosed with strep throat.
"She went to bed that night and woke up the next day a completely different child," says Jennifer.
The next morning, Jennifer says she noticed Caroline acting out of the ordinary. "She could not be away from us — the separation anxiety was the strangest part in the beginning... she loved school and all of a sudden we couldn't get her out of the car," says Jennifer.
According to Jennifer, before the strep diagnosis, Caroline was a happy, independent and confident 9-year-old. Throughout the next several weeks, her symptoms and personality changes became more apparent.
"There was OCD, the separation anxiety, the eating restrictions, there was suicidal ideation," says Jennifer.
After visits to dozens of specialists, Caroline was diagnosed with Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Strep (PANDAS).
According to Dr. Lamia Kadir with Family Medicine Austin, a child is diagnosed with PANDAS when their antibodies attack the strep and the brain. "It's an abnormal immune response. Because of potentially strep, the brain reacts totally abnormal and leaves the child to go into an acute state of psychiatric disturbance," says Dr. Kadir.
Dr. Kadir says PANDAS is extremely rare, but it's one of the many complications of strep throat, if left untreated. "If your child has a sore throat that does not go away, usually associated with a fever, you should get them checked out," says Dr. Kadir.
Symptoms of PANDAS include sudden changes in behavior like OCD and tics after a strep diagnosis.
However, because the disorder presents differently in every child and it's relatively new to the medical community, there is no cure. Dr. Kadir says a quick diagnosis and treatment can lead to periods of remission for children.
Jennifer House has traveled the country experimenting with several treatments for Caroline, including equine assisted psychotherapy and IVIG treatments.
She says she's found support from other parents in Austin whose children are going through the same thing. "Although strep throat for some kids is an easy antibiotic and they're going to feel better the next day, it can affect another family in a way you couldn't imagine," says Jennifer.
Her message to parents: Don't take a strep throat lightly.