Flu Season & Enterovirus 68 in Preschools

By Katie Dueber, Pediatrician & TLC Board Member

As a mom of two young children and a pediatrician, this time of year always makes me nervous. As kids head back to school, they are eager to see their friends and teachers, catch up from the summer, and share their germs. Now, this may not be the first concern on everyone’s mind, but it certainly is at the forefront of mine. Being well-aware of germs is especially true this year, as we are seeing an early spike of a particularly potent respiratory virus.

Enterovirus 68 (EV-D68) is making headlines as it clears out classrooms and fills pediatric intensive care units. Its victims include our youngest patients as they are always more susceptible to respiratory illness, and also asthmatics. Kids with even mild asthma are really struggling with this illness and these are the kids that are often requiring hospitalization for supportive care. This virus is causing severe cold symptoms, cough, and in some patients, wheezing and respiratory distress.

This virus is not new, but the effect it is having on children this year seems to be. There has been a lot of media attention around this virus, adding to parental concern but also increasing awareness about the virus and precautions to take against it. The largest numbers of reported cases seem to be in Kansas City and Chicago, but Colorado certainly seems to be seeing its share. There are more than 100 types of enteroviruses and they typically cause mild diseases that are spread through the oral-fecal route. EV-D68 is also spread by mucus and droplets in the air.

Asthma is a risk factor for more severe illness. If your child is on a preventive asthma medication, please make sure that he or she is using it. If your child uses Albuterol, even occasionally, start it with any symptoms of cough or illness. Even if you child does not have asthma, this virus can make your child ill. Prevention is the best medicine, but if your child does get sick, use over the counter medications as instructed by your physician, encourage fluids, rest and keep your child at home.  This is a virus, which means antibiotics will not help, so do not expect your doctor to prescribe them, but have your child seen if he is not improving. And have him seen right away if he is having any difficulty breathing.

EV-D68 is not the same virus as influenza, but we will likely be seeing that all too soon as well! To help prevent the spread of respiratory illness, wash hands often with hot water and soap, drink plenty of fluids, keep your child home if she is sick, avoid others when they are sick and get your flu shot!

Sophia washes her hands with soap in her preschool class to help prevent the spread of germs