Adenovirus is one of those viruses that can cause just about any symptom from head to toe – literally. In children, it most commonly causes respiratory and intestinal symptoms. This column is going to cover the respiratory illnesses related to ‘adeno.’ Just like other viral infections, adenoviral infections seem to cluster, as these viral particles are easily spread from person to person. The virus is spread by respiratory droplets or by coming into contact with objects or surfaces on which the viral particles have landed and then are picked up by our hands. Think doorknobs, telephones, toys, desks, etc. Adenovirus is hardy and like many viruses can live on surfaces for many hours.
Once exposed to the virus, a child will typically develop symptoms two to 14 days later. In other words, you rarely know where you picked this up, but day care and schools are prime breeding grounds for viral infections, and most children will develop an adenoviral infection before age 4.
Adenoviral symptoms are typically like those of other respiratory viruses – fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose and swollen lymph nodes. Adeno may also cause croup, bronchiolitis and pneumonia. The symptoms of the virus typically last 7to 10 days, although it may take up to two weeks for the infection to resolve.
Adenovirus also causes conjunctivitis, or inflammation of the membranes that cover the eye, which is commonly referred to as pink eye. With adenoviral pink eye, you usually see swollen eye lids, which may even appear to be slightly bruised and bright red eyes with excessive tearing and drainage. At times, there seem to be epidemics of this type of conjunctivitis. In younger children, adenoviral infections may also be associated with an ear infection which develops after the upper respiratory symptoms.
The only remedy for these nasty viral infections is the usual: Treat the symptoms. Go with fluids, rest and a cool mist humidifier to help with the cough. Taking hot showers, or sitting in a steamy bathroom can help loosen up all of the mucus and good nose-blowing helps to relieve congestion. The sore throat may be soothed with popsicles and ice cream, while other kids prefer warm tea or lemonade. For discomfort in the eyes, use an over the counter artificial tear drop to relieve the “grainy” feeling and help with the discharge. Try to keep your child’s hands, and yours, away from their eyes. Frequent, but not excessive hand washing is one of the ways to prevent passing the virus to other family members.
Dr. Sue Hubbard is a pediatrician, medical editor and media host. Submit questions at kidsdr.com.