BY LINDA STEVENSON, PhD, RN, FNP-C, PEDIAQ SENIOR NURSE PRACTITIONER
Enteroviruses can strike at any time of the year, but summer and early fall are the main seasons for your child to get a virus from this group. This virus family loves to be wherever a lot of people/children gather together. It loves camps and day care centers, or anywhere children are grouped together for play and activities. This family of viruses can cause a wide variety of illnesses because there are over 70 strains.
What does it look like if your child has an enterovirus? Most commonly children will have fever without any other symptoms. They have a fever for a couple of days, then they seem to get better and then the fever is back. This fever can be high, around 104F. If your child is over 6 months, alternating acetaminophen and ibuprofen is helpful.
Other symptoms children may have are loose stools or diarrhea, tummy aches, headaches in older kids, and/or muscle aches with or without fever. Enteroviruses can cause colds, sore throats and even pneumonia. One particular strain of the virus is responsible for hand-foot and mouth disease. These viruses may also cause rashes.
So what does this mean for your child? This group of viruses is spread easily from poop to mouth to skin and through the respiratory system with coughing and sneezing. They also live long, 24 to 48 hours, on objects and surfaces. This means good hygiene is a must: hand washing with soap and water after toileting, changing diapers and before eating. Wipe down surfaces and objects/toys with disinfecting wipes whenever an ill person is in contact with them. When hand washing is not available use hand sanitizer.
Antibiotics are not helpful since we are dealing with a virus. We try to relieve the symptoms/discomforts for children. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are helpful for a fever. Lukewarm baths or showers can also bring a fever down a degree or two. Don’t let the child shiver as it blocks decreasing the fever.
Probiotics that contain Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium are helpful in slowing diarrhea. They contain beneficial bacteria for the gi tract. Probiotics are safe for children and there are no significant side effects for children with normal immune systems. Always check with your pediatrician before giving a child under age 12 over the counter antidiarrheal medications.
The main concern with fever, diarrhea and vomiting is dehydration. Frequent sips of Pedialyte or watered down Gatorade are important to maintain hydration. Avoid sodas and anything with a lot of sugar, for example juices. They should be getting enough fluid to urinate at least every 6 to 8 hours. Don’t worry if they do not want to eat or are picky with what they will eat, children can go for a few days without eating as long as they are drinking. When their appetite returns start with bland foods, nothing fatty or high in sugars. If your child is vomiting and unable to keep anything down, call your pediatrician.
Don’t let summer fun be sidelined by a virus, keep up the hand washing!