Kids and Enteroviruses (Gastrointestinal Tract Illnesses)

Last updated on April 27th, 2016 at 10:02 am

girl child abdominal pain on a gray backgroundEnteroviruses: Now you see the word that describes those viral infections that affect the gastrointestinal tract to one degree or another. These become more prevalent during the warmer months of the year, and therefore may affect a lot of children of early school age during the beginning and end of the school or nursery year.

Your child or toddler may experience vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever in one combination or another, but these illnesses, as a rule, tend to be short and mild.  In general the diarrhea usually does not contain blood or mucous as these are found in the diseases that are usually caused by bacterial agents.  The stools are usually clear to yellow/brown and may be watery or just very soft.  Vomiting, fever, and diarrhea usually occur simultaneously but the vomiting is first, followed in rapid order by diarrhea and possibly fever. There are literally hundreds of named viral illness that can cause these symptoms including an enterovirus that you are familiar with; poliovirus is an enterovirus that is usually mild but until the advent of polio vaccine, this virus was capable of infecting the brain and causing any number of disturbing and sometimes permanent symptoms.  It should be said at this point that even though these are usually mild illnesses they are all capable of very rare brain invasion.

I have spoken of the symptoms of these illnesses and it is now important to help parents decide what are the symptoms that should be evaluated by a doctor.  The younger the child or  infant, the shorter period of time with these symptoms are needed to cause dehydration.

Signs of dehydration in an infant or child are (but not limited to):  fussiness, decreased volume of urine or frequency of urination, dryness of the tongue surface- not necessarily the lips, a lack of interest in his/her surroundings and listlessness.

In other words parents always know when their child is acting really sick.  A short talk with your Pediatrician will determine whether your child should be seen in the doctor’s office or things may be managed at home.

Certainly severe dehydration is very rare and has very significant symptoms that probably will not be missed by a parent.

As with all viral illnesses, the best way to prevent spread in the home starts and ends with good vigorous hand washing.  Children will probably be contagious about one day prior to symptoms (you can’t know) and a day after any fever decreases to normal.  If your child is in diapers, you will want to keep him/her at home until the diarrhea at least slows, and your child is acting normal with normal temperature.

About the Author

Dr. Joseph Skoloff received his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and his medical degree from The Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He is a past Vice Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics, a past Chairman of the Infection Control Committee at the Loudoun Hospital Center and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. In his 41 years as a practicing pediatrician he has kept hundreds of kids and families healthy and safe and plans to continue to do so for years to come. Dr. Joe believes strongly in the combined power of parent and physician working together for the health of their children. He is an advocate for children everywhere and and adheres strongly to the principles of the American Academy of Pediatrics.Dr Joe is a member of the PedSafe Expert team

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