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Common Summer Illnesses

Posted on Jul 11, 2017

Joseph F. Perno, M.D.

Although it is summer, kids still get sick. Joe Perno, M.D., medical staff affairs officer at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, explains the various types of illnesses kids seem to contract this time of year.

What type of illness do you see this time of year?

The type of illnesses we see are mainly determined by the viruses that are around during a particular time of year. For example in the winter, most the illness we see is driven by the winter time respiratory viruses, which cause runny nose, cough and fever. In the summertime, the viruses typically cause vomiting, diarrhea, high fevers and dehydration. In particular, we see a spike in viral meningitis and hand-foot-mouth disease.

What is the best way for families to combat vomiting and when should they come to the Emergency Center?

For a child who is vomiting, the best thing to do is give the stomach a rest for a period of time then start with small sips of fluid. Ideal fluids would be sport drinks, juice or Pedialyte for younger children. If the child continues to vomit, evaluation by the pediatrician or an ER would be useful. It is important that the child is not showing signs of dehydration (dry mouth or lips, no tears, decreased urine, decreased activity). Also, physicians can prescribe a medication that can stop nausea and vomiting.

Do you deal with diarrhea the same way or are there other things families can do?

Often summer illnesses will start with vomiting and progress to both vomiting and diarrhea. When you are vomiting, the lighter, clear fluids are best. If it is only diarrhea, the BRAT diet is best. Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and Toast. When the child is only suffering from diarrhea, you should avoid juices due to the high sugar load, which can make diarrhea worse. If the child is eating, then water is a great fluid. Milk, which we avoid for vomiting illnesses, is excellent for diarrhea. If the child is drinking and not showing the signs of dehydration as I mentioned, there is no need to see your doctor or the Emergency Center unless symptoms last more than seven days or there is blood in the stool.

What is hand-foot-mouth disease?

This is a syndrome caused by a common summertime virus. It will often cause extremely high fevers. The main symptom is lesions that appear on the palms, soles and throughout the mouth. The lesions in the mouth are extremely painful and often the children refuse to eat or drink. Since this is caused by a virus, there is no direct treatment for the illness. However, the mouth pain is often so severe we need to prescribe prescription pain medication. Although the patients run high fevers this should not be a cause for concern as long as the child is acting appropriately. Parents should seek care if the child is not acting right or showing any signs of dehydration.

This information was shared on WTVT-TV’s Doc on Call segment, which is aimed at helping parents learn more about children’s health issues. The segment airs each Monday morning on Good Day Tampa Bay.

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