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What is enterovirus?

Enteroviruses are very common, especially in the summer and fall, causing millions of infections in the United States each year. Enteroviruses primarily affect children but adults can also be affected. Symptoms are usually mild – runny nose, cough, fever, like those of the common cold. Most children do just fine and recover quickly.
It is important for parents to know that kids with common cold symptoms will typically recover in a few days. Even if they become really ill it is still very unlikely that their illness is from the highly publicized Enterovirus D68, which is making a lot of headlines lately. As of early October, this strain of enterovirus has not made its way to our area.
Enterovirus D68, is a case study in virulence – this strain is more likely to cause disease. I have spoken with colleagues at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City and this virus has kept hospitals in affected areas very busy with pediatric admissions.
For children who are infected with this virus, their recovery is usually quick. However, very rarely their respiratory symptoms will develop into wheezing episodes with inflammation in the lungs. Whether infected with Enterovirus D68 or any of the other hundreds of viruses that cause the common cold, symptoms to be aware of include fast breathing, looking tired without exertion, unusual sounds with breathing or a cough that sounds unusual. These are all signs of more severe illness and good reason to consult your pediatrician. Children with asthma are at a much greater risk and their treatment should be carefully managed.
In addition to the common respiratory symptoms, some children may develop gastrointestinal symptoms. Vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration. If you are concerned that your child is becoming dehydrated, check that he or she is urinating at least three times per day and has moist mucosae (mucous membranes). Most importantly, how alert is your child? Dehydration can reduce their level of alertness. Parents will often look at a baby’s fontanelles, the soft spots in their skull, to check for dehydration. (A common cause for sunken fontanelles is dehydration.) However, by the time the fontanelles are affected the baby will be very dehydrated. There are other signs, such as those listed above, that will appear first.

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