It’s hard to tell the difference between the two, but Pia Pannaraj, MD, Infectious Diseases specialist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles speaks on how parents should treat their kids’ symptoms and when to seek medical attention.
What is Enterovirus 68?
Pannaraj: It is a virus that causes cold-like symptoms that is currently being seen in the Midwest. It has been around since the 1960’s and first discovered in California with just a few cluster of cases. Now, it is showing itself again and is slowly creeping across the country.
How frightened should parents be about their kids getting Enterovirus 68?
Pannaraj: Currently, it is in the Midwest, but it is just a matter of time before it makes its way to California. In many kids, it will cause a bad cold, but in children with asthma, it can exacerbate their asthma to the point where they may need medical attention.
Are children with underlying conditions more susceptible to Enterovirus 68?
Pannaraj: So far, 70 percent of those having underlying respiratory illness, like asthma, and 30 percent of those who were healthy make up the children being hospitalized.
How can parents differentiate between a bad cold and this virus?
Pannaraj: It will be difficult to distinguish the two since enterovius will cause a cold. Children will usually present with a cough as their main symptom. Other symptoms may include runny nose, sneezing, and body and muscle aches. However, a fever is not very common with Enterovirus 68. The children who become very ill with Enterovirus 68 develop wheezing and difficulty breathing.
What are some prevention tips?
Pannaraj: Good hand washing, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, cough and sneeze into your arm, and avoid other children who appear sick. It can spread easily and anywhere, especially at schools, where infection risks are at higher because you have more kids in close quarters. It is airborne and contagious.
How should parents treat their kids’ symptoms?
Pannaraj: Rest and hydration. Treat it the same way you would a bad cold. Keep the kids out of school.
Is there a vaccine for Enterovirus 68?
Pannaraj: Unfortunately, a vaccine is not available at this time.
When should they seek medical attention for their kids?
Pannaraj: If a child is wheezing, having trouble breathing, coughing so much that they cannot talk, or having difficulty drinking, they should seek medical attention. Children with asthma should be prepared with medical inhalers as needed.
*Image of “runny nose” via Shutterstock