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What are the Different Polio Treatments?

By Jacob Queen
Updated May 17, 2024
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The polio treatments used generally depend on the severity of the disease and the symptoms in each particular case. In many situations, polio will only cause flu-like symptoms, and in those cases, the treatment is similar to what is given to flu victims. This would generally include things like getting plenty of rest and taking in fluids to avoid dehydration. In more severe cases, polio treatments may include placing patients on respirators or even inside iron lungs to help them breathe. The long-term consequences of polio can also require separate treatments, including rehabilitation for limb weakness and corrective braces.

Polio is caused by a virus that can infect a person in three different ways. The most basic infection causes very mild symptoms, and it is not uncommon for it to go completely unnoticed. The second type causes symptoms similar to spinal meningitis, and it is slightly more dangerous, but still not usually that severe. A third type of polio, which is called paralytic polio, involves a full-scale attack on an individual’s nervous system by the polio virus, and this is the kind of severe infection that most people think about when the subject of polio comes up. The polio treatments used by doctors will vary depending on the type of infection they are dealing with, along with the different levels of severity and the stage of the disease.

There are two types of polio vaccines used in different situations. The first uses a non-active version of the virus, and the second uses an active version. The non-active version is generally less effective, but it is considered much safer. The active version can potentially cause people to develop polio in a tiny number of cases, but it is administered by mouth, and it offers the best chance of avoiding infection. It also has the side benefit of giving the vaccinated individual the ability to "spread" the vaccination to other people around them.

Experts generally agree that the most important way to deal with polio is prevention rather than polio treatments. Once patients develop polio, treatment options are generally limited, and there is often very little that doctors can do to halt the virus. Vaccines, on the other hand, have generally been much more successful. In fact, widespread vaccinations have almost wiped out polio in many parts of the world. Some parts of the developing world still have problems with polio, and there are efforts underway to increase the numbers of vaccinations in those areas.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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