Adenovirus Infection in Kids
What are adenoviruses?
Adenoviruses are a group of viruses that typically cause respiratory illnesses, such as a common cold, conjunctivitis (an infection in the eye that is sometimes called pink eye), croup, bronchitis, or pneumonia. In children, adenoviruses usually cause infections in the respiratory tract and intestinal tract. Consider the following facts about adenoviruses:
- Infection in children may occur at any age.
- Adenoviral respiratory infections are most common in the late winter, spring, and early summer. Adenoviruses can occur anytime throughout the year.
- Digestive tract infections are more common in children under the age of 5.
- Most children have had one form of the infection by age 10.
What is an adenovirus infection in children?
Adenoviruses are a group of viruses that cause a variety of infections, such as:
- Respiratory illness, such as a cold
- Infection of the eye (conjunctivitis, also called pink eye)
In children, adenoviruses most often cause infections in the respiratory system, but they also cause infections of the digestive tract. Respiratory infections are most common in the late winter, spring, and early summer. But these infections can occur anytime throughout the year.
What causes adenovirus infections in a child?
The following are the most common ways adenoviruses are transmitted:
- Respiratory infections. Respiratory infections occur by coming in contact with infectious material from another individual or inanimate object. The secretions from the respiratory tract may contain the virus. The virus can also survive for many hours on inanimate objects, such as doorknobs, hard surfaces, and toys.
- Intestinal tract infections. Transmission of the digestive strain of the virus usually occurs by fecal-oral contact. Usually, this occurs from poor hand washing or from ingestion of contaminated food or water.
How is an adenovirus infection diagnosed?
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic tests for adenoviruses may include:
- Blood work
- The culture of respiratory secretions by nasal swab
- Stool culture
- Chest X-ray. A diagnostic test that uses invisible energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
How can I help prevent adenovirus infections in my child?
To help prevent the spread of adenoviruses to others:
- Wash your hands before and after caring for your child. Use soap and warm water and scrub for at least 20 seconds. Rinse well and air dry or use a clean towel.
- Make sure your child washes his or her hands often, especially before eating and after using the bathroom.
- Have your child cover his or her mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing.
- Help your child avoid close contact with someone who is sick.
- Make sure your child-care center encourages handwashing.
If your child is in the hospital, healthcare workers may wear special isolation clothing when they enter your child’s room. These may include hospital gowns, gloves, and masks.
What can be complications of adenovirus infections?
Consider the following complications that may develop from an adenovirus infection. Consult your child’s doctor for more information.
- Children who develop pneumonia from adenovirus may develop chronic lung disease. However, this is very rare.
- Children with weakened immune systems are at risk for developing a more severe infection from adenoviruses.
- A severe complication of intestinal adenovirus is intussusception (an intestinal blockage that occurs when one part of the intestine slides over another section like a telescope.) This is a medical emergency and most often occurs in babies. The symptoms of intussusception may include bloody stool, vomiting, abdominal swelling, knees flexed to chest, loud cries from pain, weakness, and lethargy.