Hospitals and healthcare providers across the country are seeing an unusual influx of patients who have symptoms of respiratory illnesses. These respiratory illnesses seem to exacerbate symptoms of asthma, especially in children, and are contagious. Simply put, this is an uncommon strain of a respiratory virus that is hitting particularly hard and early this year.
Parents who suspect their child has a respiratory illness should keep an eye out for cold symptoms that are more severe than usual and seek immediate help if their child is having problems breathing. Below is information on respiratory viruses, and what parents need to know about prevention and treatment.
What is a respiratory virus?
It is a viral infection that can cause a runny nose and cold symptoms, as well as wheezing. Rhinovirus and Enterovirus are types of respiratory viruses; Enterovirus D68 has appeared in recent weeks and seems to cause more severe cold symptoms and breathing problems for both kids with and without asthma.
What are symptoms of a respiratory virus?
Symptoms of a respiratory virus are similar to a cold: runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, cough (wheezing in more severe cases), and fever. Sometimes, watery eyes and swollen lymph nodes in the neck also occur.
What is typical treatment for a respiratory virus?
Antibiotics are ineffective for treating respiratory viruses so prevention is the best medicine. If you suspect your child already has a respiratory virus, review the guidelines for administering over-the-counter medication at home in your Naturally Healthy Kids book. Make sure you follow the dosing instructions for your child’s age, and always consult your doctor if you are unsure.
If your child has asthma and you suspect he/she has a respiratory virus:
• Continue with any asthma treatments your child may already be on.
• Have an Asthma Action Plan. (see childrenscolorado.org/breathing)
• Make sure your child has his/her inhaler and asthma medication (if applicable) at all times.
• Make sure your child’s caregiver and/or teacher is aware of his/her condition, and that they know how to help if your child experiences any symptoms related to asthma.
• If your child has not had an asthma flare-up recently, it is still imperative that you practice prevention, and keep an inhaler with your child.
How do you prevent a respiratory virus?
• Respiratory viruses can spread quickly, so the first defense is to always wash your hands.
• Drink plenty of fluids.
• Avoid close contact with anyone who may have a respiratory virus and refrain from sharing eating utensils.
• If you suspect you or your child has a respiratory virus, stay home and rest. Do not go to work or school if you have symptoms, in order to prevent the spread of the virus.
• If it is available, make sure you and your child get your flu vaccines and make sure everyone in your family has their pertussis vaccine up to date.
If your child has any of the following symptoms, call 911 immediately:
(These are guidelines; if at any point you believe your child needs immediate emergency care, take him or her to the emergency room or call 911):
• The child is having serious trouble breathing (chest retracts and lips and/or fingers turn blue)
• Child’s skin or lips have turned blue
• The child is unresponsive or difficult to arouse
• Paralysis or unexplained slurred speech
• Severe headache accompanied by blurred vision, difficulty speaking, numbness, tingling or paralysis
What should I do if I am concerned about my child?
If your child does not have any of the symptoms listed above, first call Partners In Pediatrics;
• Denver office at 919 Jasmine St. (303) 388-4256
• South Metro Office at 9785 Maroon Circle (303) 779-1172
What should I expect if I bring my child to Partners In Pediatrics for treatment of a suspected respiratory illness?
Every respiratory virus is different, and they appear in varying severity. If you bring your child to a one of our offices, you might expect:
• The caregiver to evaluate your child’s breathing.
• They will also check your child’s oxygenation levels; if your child has low oxygen levels, caregivers may administer oxygen.
• Some children may need breathing treatments, like a nebulizer.
• Caregivers may also administer medications to relieve symptoms of fever and cold.
• Partners In Pediatrics will not test every patient for a respiratory virus. If caregivers do decide to test, they will do so by performing a nasal swab.
What are enteroviruses?
Enteroviruses are respiratory viruses, and there are more than 100 types. This year, hospitals and healthcare organizations have seen symptoms most related to Enterovirus D-68, most often characterized by respiratory distress