Doctors warn of more severe virus season
Signs of a common cold:
three to five days of low grade fever
When to see a doctor:
fevers that last more than five days
Having trouble eating or staying hydrated
Unable to catch your breath or coughing so hard it causes shortness of breath and wheezing
If symptoms worsen after a few days
EAGLE COUNTY — Coughs, fevers and stuffy noses — Eagle pediatrician Dr. Janet Engle has been seeing it through the summer, and she said she expects to keep seeing it as winter approaches.
“It could make for a more severe flu season,” said Engle, who works with Colorado Mountain Medical.
Dr. Jeff Brown, the director of the pediatric hospitalists program at Vail Valley Medical Center, is reporting the same thing — an uptick in kids coming in with severe upper respiratory infections, a trend that has been mirrored across the state. The particular viral strains going around display the usual chest cold symptoms, but it can cause more serious problems in children who have asthma, doctors said.
Still, Eagle County doctors tell parents that what they’re seeing in their clinics is nothing compared to the viral outbreaks going on in the Front Range, where younger kids have been coming down with strains of the enterovirus. A handful of Denver children have even come down with paralysis-like symptoms, and while doctors say they do not know for sure what is causing the symptoms, they suspect it is linked to a particularly nasty enterovirus.
Eagle County epidemiologist Becky Larsen said that there’s no sure link between the neurological symptoms and the enterovirus and that there have been no reports of such symptoms in Eagle County.
MOUNTAIN COMMUNITIES NOT HIT AS HARD
Meanwhile, Eagle County seems to be a little more shielded from the sickness so far.
“The hospitals (in Denver) were reporting an increase of 15 to 20 percent for kids (coming in with respiratory infections). I’ve been keeping an eye on it here in the valley, and while we’re seeing higher volumes of these cases, it’s not to that extent,” said Brown, adding that the enterovirus is a very common virus that doctors see all the time. “Other hospitals in mountain communities have seen the same thing. I’m not sure why the mountain communities are being spared.”
WHAT IS THE ENTEROVIRUS?
The enterovirus encompasses a whole family of viruses that can cause everything from the common cold to polio, said Engle. The current strain that doctors think may be causing the respiratory infections is called enterovirus 68. To avoid it, physicians recommend common sense precautions — wash your hands, get vaccinated and keep an eye on your kids if they do come down with a cold.
“We see more of it in the winter for sure,” said Engle. “We’re in closer proximity. We’re not outside all the time, and kids are in close proximity in school. We’re seeing it in all ages as a common cold, from elementary aged kids to high school. I haven’t seen it so much in preschool children.”
It sounds serious, but Brown advises parents not to panic.
“Take a deep breath, enterovirus isn’t ebola,” he said. “This is a very common virus that we have a lot of experience with. Yes, to some degree we’re seeing more this year. You’ll want to watch your child for signs of not being to catch their breath, or having a hard time breathing. Watch out for a high fever that lasts or serious symptoms that don’t show improvement over a few days.”
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR
So what qualifies as a common cold, and when should you bring your child to the doctor?
Typical colds can cause three to five days of low grade fever and a sore throat, said Engle. Warning signs of a more serious cold include those Brown listed, as well as feeling lethargic, fever for more than five days and if your child is having trouble eating or staying hydrated.
Brown also warns that antibiotics don’t work against viral sicknesses, and in fact, the side effects of the medications could make symptoms worse. He also adds that the American Academy of Pediatrics says that over-the-counter medications have no proven positive effect on children younger than the age of 6, so if your young child is sick, keep the medications away.
“You could use some ibuprofen for a low-grade fever, but I say it’s best to use a vaporizer or humidifier, prop older kids’ heads up to drain congestion and keep them hydrated,” said Brown. “I still think a bowl of chicken soup goes a long way in making kids feel better.”
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