HPV can be transmitted from mother to fetus during the perinatal period, which is typically 5 months before and 1 month after birth. Infection commonly occurs during natural childbirth but even if new mothers get a caesarean section, does not protect a newborn 100%.
Children younger than five years old can develop an HPV-related disease called respiratory papillomatosis, or RP. It is a disease where papillomas appear in the larynx, trachea, bronchi or anywhere in the rest of the respiratory system, from the nose to the lungs. The papillomas can block the airway, posing a risk to the patient’s life. The incidents of this disease are low and most cases are first-born children of young mothers who had natural childbirth. HPV Types 6 & 11 are usually the causes but in rare cases, HPV 16 or 18 is behind the disease.
If your child is presenting with any of these symptoms, it’s standard for the doctor to look at the airway with an instrument called an endoscope to see if there are any lesions on the throat, larynx, trachea, or lower airways. If RP is the cause, treatment involves destroying the lesions via laser, cryotherapy or microabrasion in addition to antiviral medication.
RP can go into remission and can have flare-ups. Recurrences, known as Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis, RRP, are common and for children, a tracheotomy may be necessary to ensure breathing. Also, in 3-5% of these cases, lesions may be malignant and develop into cancer. This is why it’s important to be vaccinated against HPV. Not only can it minimize transmission of the virus from mother to child, but it also prevents against RP in adults.
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