Severe Respiratory Illness Increasing In Children

Source: Monmouth Journal Eastern

Across the RWJBarnabas Health network of hospitals and medical facilities — which includes Monmouth Medical Center here — there has been a recent surge in cases of severe respiratory illness in children who test positive for rhinovirus and/or enterovirus.

Uzma N. Hasan, MD, Division Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center, and Christopher Freer, DO, FACEP, Senior Vice President of Emergency and Hospitalist Medicine at RWJBarnabas Health, recently discussed symptoms and risk factors of the virus, when to seek emergency care, and how to protect your children.

Q. How can I best treat my child with rhinoviruses (RV) and enteroviruses (EV)?
A. Dr. Freer: Most children with RV or EV exhibit mild cold symptoms such as runny nose, congestion, fever and, or cough. There are several things you can do at home to mitigate your child’s symptoms. Make sure to keep them hydrated with lots of fluids, control fever with Tylenol or Advil, and look for signs of respiratory distress.

Q. What is EV-D68 and what are the symptoms?
A. Dr. Hasan: EV-D68 is a particular strain of enterovirus we are seeing in a large percentage of our pediatric patients at this time. Typical symptoms of EV-D68 are fever, nasal congestion and cough, sore throat, body aches and can sometimes lead to difficulty breathing, wheezing or an asthma flare. Parents should be aware of, but not afraid of, a recent surge in EV-D68 cases. For the most part, for otherwise healthy children, this is a mild illness and will not lead to severe complications.

Q. When should I call my pediatrician or seek emergency care for my child?
A. Dr. Freer: You can always call your pediatrician for guidance whenever your child is ill. However, if your child is exhibiting new onset wheezing or violent coughing, you need to call your pediatrician right away. Additionally, if he or she is exhibiting any sign of respiratory distress or difficulty breathing, take them to the emergency department right away.

Q. How can I best protect my child?
A. Dr. Hasan: Be sure to encourage frequent hand washing, clean household surfaces with Lysol or germicidal cleansers and keep them away from other members of the household to reduce the spread of the virus.

If your child is sick, keep them home until they are no longer contagious, and consider having them wear mask in crowds, at school, or around those with suppressed immune systems. Help them to practice good cough etiquette, such as coughing into their elbow, and wash hands frequently.

For those children who are asthmatic or have chronic lung disease, be sure to be up-to-date on their asthma action plan. Chronically ill newborns should be isolated from siblings who may carry the virus home.

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