Summertime Infections

Ahh, summertime. By now, most of us are well into vacation planning and traveling, backyard picnics and those endless days by the pool or on the playground.

Until, that is, the fever hits. (Fever?? Wait, this is summer! I thought kids were supposed to be healthy in the summer!) Unfortunately, many viruses and other infections are more common in the summer, though it takes many parents by surprise. Here’s a short guide to the common summer ailments and what to do about them…

Viruses

It’s possible to catch a common cold any time of the year, though certain viruses such as rhinovirus are more common in the winter.  Coxsackieviruses commonly hit this time of year, causing Hand Foot and Mouth Disease. Children with this ailment develop fever and small, painful sores in their mouth and sometimes a rash on their hands and soles of feet. As with other viruses, there’s no specific treatment other than relieving pain and fever with acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and providing plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

Enteroviruses and echoviruses can cause a wide range of symptoms, from very mild to very serious. Children may have high fever, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, rashes and/or conjunctivitis (redness of the eye).  These viruses can also cause meningitis (look for severe headache and stiff neck) and myocarditis (showing up as chest pain), an infection of the heart muscle.

Adenovirus is another summertime bug we see in the office. Children with this infection can develop high fever, sore throat, conjunctivitis, and upper respiratory symptoms (sound familiar?). It can mimic strep throat, and it’s always good to be evaluated for that in the office, since we CAN give specific medicine to treat strep.

To prevent the spread of these and other viruses, keep up your vigilant hand-washing even in the summer, especially after diaper changing or using the restroom. Children with fever or other signs of illness should stay home from camp, swimming pools and child care centers for the first few days of illness. Fortunately, most children recover from these viruses within 7-10 days. As always, call our office with any concerning symptom or question.

Mosquito- and Tick-Borne Illnesses

Mosquitos, besides being a general nuisance, can harbor the virus that causes West Nile encephalitis, as well as the Zika virus. More commonly, a mosquito bite can become infected by the bacteria that we all have on our skin. If your child develops redness, warmth, swelling , drainage, or pain around a mosquito bite (or a cut or scrape, for that matter), call our office for evaluation.

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria transmitted through the bite of a deer tick (these are the very small ticks, about the size of a poppy seed). The incidence of Lyme disease is highest in children ages 5-9 years, with another peak in those aged 45-54. A child with Lyme disease may develop a circular rash in the area of the tick bite within 7-14 days of the bite. The rash is sometimes referred to as a “bullseye” rash because of its appearance. Other symptoms may include fever, tiredness, headache, joint stiffness or pain and other rashes. If the disease is not treated, children can go on to develop arthritis or even meningitis.  Fortunately, treatment is relatively simple with a 2-3 week course of oral antibiotics, and most children recover completely.

If you discover a tick on your child, grab the tick with tweezers and pull it straight out. Do not twist or squeeze the tick, and do not use other methods such as a match or credit card, as these maybe dangerous as well as not completely effective in removing the tick completely.

For a refresher on insect repellents and preventing mosquito and tick bites, I refer you to Beverly Curtis’ Note.

For more on Ticks, see Dr. Godinez’s Note.

Food Poisoning

No one wants to even think about contaminated food at a backyard picnic. Unfortunately, food poisoning often hits children hardest because they tend to be susceptible to dehydration a little quicker than adults.  A variety of bacteria can cause food poisoning, from Staph species to E.coli, to Salmonella and Shigella. Symptoms are similar to a typical “stomach virus” — fever, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Call our office if your child has signs of dehydration, bloody diarrhea or persistent high-volume diarrhea, or of course with any concerns.

Prevention is the key in this case. Review our Doctor’s Note on E. Coli, and follow proper food preparation, cooking and storage procedures, especially in these hot days of summer.

That’s a short summary of some of the common ailments we see this time of year in our office. It’s true we like to think of summer as a time of health and wellness, but the truth is, no season is completely void of it’s own specific infections. Hopefully this guide is helpful in showing that with a little prevention, care and help from your friendly Kids Plus providers, we can ride through the germs of summer as safely and quickly as possible.

Dr. Amy Maddalena, a Kids Plus Doc since 2006, teaches The Fussy Baby Class and the Expectant Parent Orientation at our Pleasant Hills Office.