If you have been watching the news on TV or reading it on-line you cannot escape having heard about enterovirus D68. The past 10 days the news stations have been talking about this virus and sharing all of the scary facts about it. But that is what the media does with a story. They let us know what is out there and often give us only the scary details and not the full story. Hopefully I can give you a little more information I also have the time and space to do that which the news people cannot.
Enterovirus D68 belongs to a group of viruses called enterovirus. This family includes over 70 different viruses. To those of you with kids in school or daycare there are a few more well-known enteroviruses that you may be familiar with – polio and coxsackie- otherwise known as the hand, foot and mouth virus. This enterovirus D68 is just one more in the family. It was first discovered in the 1960s and we haven’t seen a lot of it over the years but when we do see it, it can cause some significant illness.
Symptoms of enterovirus D68 can mimic the common cold. A child will start with cough and congestion and may also get fever. For many people who contract the virus these are the only symptoms that they will have. Others will get pretty sick from it and develop a harsh cough, wheezing and breathing problems. These are the kids they have been talking about on the news. Again, I will emphasize that not everyone ends up with these more significant symptoms.
How can you help your child? First of all, what do we always say at Bayshore Pediatrics- the best way to help your child is to make sure they are resting and drinking lots of fluids. If they are younger nasal saline and suction can be helpful. Nasal saline also helps older children as does a humidifier (cool mist of course) in their room. We are not able to distinguish between this more mild form of the illness and the common cold.
It is important to watch for worsening or changing symptoms, that can happen quickly. We want to see them if they are having difficulty breathing or wheezing or have a new fever. We also would want to see them immediately if they have any of the following symptoms:
- Turning gray or blue around the mouth
- Pulling in by the ribs while breathing
- Difficulty speaking because they can’t breath
- Not drinking much and little urination
While watching the news makes it seem like all children should be seen, if their symptoms are mild and more like a cold they do not have to come in. We do not have a medicine that will make it go away and treatment is supportive only. At the same time, if you are worried or you think they do not look right we absolutely want to see them.
How can you prevent this virus? This virus is spread like most other respiratory viruses you need someone who has the virus to cough or sneeze on you. So if your child is sick keep them home from school AND activities. Good hand washing is also important. Also, although this is really hard with kids, remind them to try not to touch their face frequently, especially their eyes, nose, and mouth .
I always try to remember that the media is helpful in spreading news about what is going on. I also want to help our patients see our take on the news and hopefully help provide you with some more information. This is a serious virus and many kids are getting really sick from it. Many of those are just getting cold like symptoms. A smaller percentage are going to the hospital and needing supportive care. So please don’t immediately get worried if your child starts with cold like symptoms. Watch them closely and if you are worried or they showing concerning symptoms call us or come in and be seen.