• Alternative Names

    Polio; Infantile paralysis; Post-polio syndrome


    The goal of treatment is to control symptoms while the infection runs its course.

    People with severe cases may need lifesaving measures, especially breathing help.

    Symptoms are treated based on how severe they are. Treatments include:

    • Antibiotics for urinary tract infections
    • Medications (such as bethanechol) for urinary retention
    • Moist heat (heating pads, warm towels) to reduce muscle pain and spasms
    • Pain killers to reduce headache, muscle pain, and spasms (narcotics are not usually given because they increase the risk of breathing difficulty)
    • Physical therapy, braces or corrective shoes, or orthopedic surgery to help recover muscle strength and function

    Support Groups

    Expectations (prognosis)

    What to expect depends on the form of the disease (subclinical, nonparalytic, or paralytic) and the site affected. If the spinal cord and brain are not involved, which is the case more than 90% of the time, complete recovery is likely.

    Brain or spinal cord involvement is a medical emergency that may result in paralysis or death (usually from respiratory difficulties).

    Disability is more common than death. Infection high in the spinal cord or in the brain increases the risk of breathing problems.

    • Aspiration pneumonia
    • Cor pulmonale
    • High blood pressure
    • Kidney stones
    • Lack of movement
    • Lung problems
    • Myocarditis
    • Paralytic ileus (loss of intestinal function)
    • Permanent muscle paralysis, disability, deformity
    • Pulmonary edema
    • Shock
    • Urinary tract infections

    Post-polio syndrome is a complication that develops in some patients, usually 30 or more years after their initial infection. Weakness may get worse in muscles that were previously weakened. Weakness may also develop in muscles that previously were thought not to be affected.

    Calling your health care provider

    Call your health care provider if:

    • Someone close to you has developed poliomyelitis and you haven't been vaccinated
    • You develop symptoms of poliomyelitis
    • Your child's polio immunization (vaccine) is not up to date