By Sue Hubbard, M.D.
With winter viruses long gone (goodbye, flu and RSV!), summer viruses that have been lying dormant are once again rearing their ugly heads.
My office has been overflowing lately with feverish kids of all ages. I think the most likely source for much of the illness we're seeing right now is enteroviral infection.
Enteroviral infections typically cause a non-specific illness accompanied by a fairly high fever. Just like the thermometer in summer, 101 to 104 degrees is not uncommon in these patients. I think it's almost worse to have a high fever in the summer, as you're even more uncomfortable because it's already hot outside!
With that being said, if your child has a fever, don't bundle them in layers of clothes and blankets. It's perfectly acceptable to leave a younger child in a diaper and T-shirt, and older children can be in sundresses or shorts. Bundling may increase body temperature. I often come into a room to examine a baby who's running a fever and the child is wrapped in blankets. That hot body needs to breathe.
Along with fever, summer enteroviruses may cause other symptoms. Many kids right now seem to have sore throats, are vomiting and have diarrhea. With this type of virus, you also hear complaints of headaches and body aches (myalgias). The kids I'm seeing don't look especially sick, but they feel pretty yucky - just kind of wiped out, especially when their temps are up.
Besides treating their fevers, you need to treat their other symptoms to make them comfortable. If they're vomiting, don't give them anything to eat and instead start giving them frequent sips of liquids such as Pedialyte (for younger kids) and Gatorade or even Sprite or Ginger Ale. Small volumes are key.
I often use pieces of Popsicle or spoonfuls of a Slurpee to get fluids into kids. (FYI: I always tried to pick drink colors for my own kids that were easy to clean up, in case they kept vomiting: No bright red!) The cold fluids may also help to soothe a sore throat.
Once vomiting has stopped - usually within 12 to 24 hours - you can start feeding your child small amounts of food, although I'd steer away from any dairy for a day or two. There's nothing worse than thinking your child is vomiting too much, fixing them a nice milkshake (comfort food) and seeing them throw that up!
Many a mother has come to my office wanting to strip after being vomited on by her child - in a hot car, no less. I don't think there's a car wash around that can fully get rid of that smell!
Most enteroviral infections last from 2 to 5 days. There are many different enteroviruses, too, so you can get more than one infection during the season. These viruses don't just strike children; parents may succumb, as well. Keep up good hand washing and if your child is sick, keep him/her home from the pool, camp, day care, etc., until they've been fever free for 24 hours.
Dr. Sue Hubbard is a nationally known pediatrician and co-host of "The Kid's Doctor" radio show. Submit questions at www.kidsdr.com
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This was printed in the August 12, 2012 - August 25, 2012 Edition